Don’t Forget Us When You’re Gone


“I’m 94 years old. I never imagined that I’d ever be new to anything again, but I’m new to Twitter! This is my first Tweetle. This will show my grandson that I can get down with the young ones. The only problem I have, is getting back up again!” – Bryony Burrell: Twitter, April 10, 2020


By April 22nd, Bryony Burrell had 574,000 hits, 57.5K retweets and 11.2K comments! Her smiling thumbnail picture looked as if she would be anyone’s beloved great-grandma. I fell in love with her, evidently along with thousands of others.

Sad to say, it’s possible that Bryony is a fake account. Too early to tell decisively, but if she isn’t really 94 and hasn’t written this “Tweetle,” there will be lots of disappointed quarantined followers. Including me. We look at her and think, “Okay! You go girl!” And hope to be as “with it” at 94.

I may only be 79, but I’m just as determined to be “with it” as Bryony. The clutter in this picture is my declaration of my intention to live up to an exuberant, “You go, girl!” I may be old, but I’m not done yet!

In my little apartment, I’ve made room for “getting with it” while in isolation. Made room for my mind to learn new things and to focus on beauty and hope and creativity instead of the fear and panic and numbing number-crunching that marked the early days of my self-quarantine and enforced solitude.

Enlarge the picture and you’ll see “stuff” for watercolor painting: pens, a color swatch, paint brushes, paper, blue masking tape. And for calligraphy: my go-to manual for Copperplate script, pointed-nib pens, inks and papers. The two 10-drawer carts in the front hold everything I need for both ventures. And they are full!! And on top, journals sit waiting for me to write, draw, paste, journal in them with gel pens and Washi tape.

All of this – for fun. But I know it’s also been crucial for balance now that life has changed so dramatically…again. This time, its name is COVID-19.

What began as fun has turned into a life-saving way of living in isolation, at least for this older-elder who lives alone. When my spirit is getting low or crabby or disrupted, they all bring me back. Even my sewing machine, rescued from the storage shed after 5 years, got to play and make a mask.

So why do I bring all of this up? Because the talk of “opening up” is growing stronger and louder. But opening up is not likely going to change much of anything for me or any other elder. Youngers will be gone – back to school, work, play, ball games, parties, restaurants, family gatherings, beaches. We’ll still be home. There will be less of a sense of “we’re all in this together.”

When the talk about “opening things up” began a couple of weeks ago, the tone of the conversations about elders was alarming. It sounded very much like, “Lock ’em away. We’ve got things to do.” Thankfully, more recently it’s been sounding more like, “We need to continue to protect our beloved elders.” Compassion has shown up, thankfully.

We’ll need to continue physical protection, yes, for a long time it appears.

But while we are hidden away, we need to be remembered.

We need to be remembered not only as vulnerable and needing some help, though that may be true.

We also need to be remembered for our still-vibrant vitality in the midst of some lesser physical strength. Our bodies may have to be separated from our youngers, but we are still as full of life as ever. We embody fortitude.

We carry resilience and history in our bones. We carry a perspective with us that comes only with having lived in the world of how things were; we know the mistakes of the past and how they were overcome to make life new. We embody hope.

We carry the lived stories of humankind because we have, literally, lived them. We’re ready and eager to share them and to show what strength has been built into us over these long, long years. We embody endurance.

We’re in your neighborhoods, in towns and villages and cities large and small. We’re next door and down the hall. We’re living on farms and in the woods and in the home that’s been in our family for generations. We embody diversity and individuality.

We’re former teachers and seamstresses, factory workers, store clerks and business people. Artists and writers and farmers and truck drivers and builders. We’ve adapted to world wars and governmental changes. We’ve led many charitable endeavors and invented things we take for granted now. We embody ingenuity and adaptability.

We’ve raised our grandchildren and traveled the world. We’ve overcome more often than we can count, and we’ve held the hands of dying loved ones who have left before us. We embody the cycles of life.

When you youngers go back to work and volunteering and gathering in restaurants, to ball games and family reunions and beaches, remember us.

We’re still going to be here. Needing some protection, probably. But also needing you.

We are still very much alive! And interesting! And interested! And learning new things!

And laughing at the same things you are! And loving this life both because of and in spite of it all.

And when you remember us, think of us not so much with pity. But perhaps, with some hint of admiration, for we’ll likely be quietly enduring this isolation much longer than you will need to.

And we’ll also be celebrating your liberation right along with you! And I’m very okay with that.

(Oh, and with a little whimsy, too.)