Aging Wisdom From A Few Of My Favorite Old Spices

I have a lot of positive aging role models. My mom is 85 and until recently seemed unstoppable. A few weeks ago she fell and broke her femur. It has slowed her down a bit, but just for a while. After a short period of recuperation, she has every intention of getting back to her life which includes living independently in our childhood home, volunteering, traveling and senior Zumba.

Old 1950s Durkee's AllSpice Tin

I spent the past weekend with her, with the intention of helping her, but she didn’t really need much assistance. While I was there, she had visits from a few more of my positive role models. Her sister, who is 84, visited one evening. And her brother, 83, and his wife visited the next.

None of these family members have slowed down considerably, even in their advanced age. My aunt had just come from golfing and dinner with friends and my aunt and uncle had just had dinner out after attending church.

That is not to say they are not feeling the effects of their age. All had undergone surgeries and health scares. Some had more pain than they used to. But they laughed and shared stories with one another, and whether they knew it or not, they were passing on some life lessons as they talked. Here are a few life lessons I learned:

Living Isn’t Worth it If You’re Just Sitting in A Chair

The older you get, the more risky it is to do things. But this point came up numerous times. If you don’t do anything, you may be safe, but you won’t really be living. No matter your age, take a chance and live your life. Do the things you want to do while you can.

Old Schilling Ground Nutmeg Tin

Times Change and You Can Change with Them

My mom has an Ipad, an Ipod, a laptop, and a cell phone. Sometimes she gets confused and needs help, but she uses her technology every day to stay in touch with her family, friends, and the world. My relatives thought it was funny that we were growing horns because we use too much technology, but they want to be a part of it all the same. A person sees incredible change during a lifetime; learn to roll with the changes.

Take Help When You Need It

Between the three of them, my mom and her two siblings have 17 kids and many more grandchildren. When my mom broke her femur she was worried because she wouldn’t be able to cut her grass while she was in the hospital. (Yes, up until a few weeks ago she still mowed her own lawn). But of course she didn’t have to worry. She has enough kids and grandchildren to mow her lawn for the rest of her life.

Old Durkee Ground Cumin Tin

While I was home I divided up her medications into a pill organizer so she wouldn’t have to worry about getting them confused. She learned my cousin did the same thing for my aunt and uncle. It isn’t weakness to let others help you, it just lets you focus on other things.

Learn From Your Peers

In addition to hearing from my aunt and uncle about the things my cousin does to help them, my mom learned about a medication my aunt takes that could possibly be good for her. My mom also heard how my aunt now has a restricted driving license due to an eye ailment, a process that may come in handy for her later.

As a daughter this back and forth was especially important to hear because I sometimes feel as if I need to tell my mom everything. But just as it is with me, I will often take things better from my peers. Often the same things I might tell my mom, will be better understood and heard from those who are in the same position as her.

Do What’s Right for You

Which leads me to my final point. Whatever my mom does needs to be right for her. If she decides to make changes to her living situation as a result of her recent fall, it has to be her choice.

As her children we want her to be safe, but ultimately this is her life. She has eight children telling her what to do and she will take our guidance, information from other sources such as her doctors, but ultimately this is her life. We all want to be in control of our situation whether we are young or old. We have to remember to keep ourselves in the center and do what we feel is right and best for us.

Old McCormick Powdered Alum Spice Tin

Cleaning Out the Cupboards

Before I left, I cleaned out my mom’s spice cabinet. Some of the spices had been there since before I was born. As I pulled them out and showed each to my mom asking her if she wanted to keep them or throw them away, she thought about each, letting me know if she used them or not.

I tried to tell her we could always buy new ones, but she kept some of the oldest, saying she still used them. I didn’t think they had much flavor left, but that wasn’t my decision to make, so I put them back on the shelf.

On the way home, I heard the song “Old Before Your Time” by Ray LaMontagne. It reminded me of the lessons we all must learn about living and getting old, I especially liked this line:

“It’s not livin’ that you’re doin’ if it feels like dyin'” Ray LaMontagne, Old Before Your Time


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  1. Kate Johnston

    Poignant. My siblings and I went through something similar when my mom became unable to take care of herself and her home. She couldn’t bear to throw much away at all–and the pictures you have on your blog of those spices? She had those! Those tin cans are classic. 🙂 She insisted they were still good, even though they had to be over forty years old, lol.

    • Catherine Lanser

      Yes, those are the ones from her pantry. I have them on my stove now, but just for looks. I don’t even know what Alum is. She kept the bay leaves which were just as old.

  2. Cheryl | TimeToCraft

    What great points. My parents are in their 80s and still cutting the grass. I love the point about sitting down and also living life. We are lucky to have these people in our lives. #MMBC

    • Catherine Lanser

      Thanks for stopping Cheryl. Yes, if we are lucky enough to have them, we have to remember to listen.

    • Catherine Lanser

      Thanks, Kim. Yes, it’s something we all want and forget sometimes when it comes to those we take care of.

  3. Carol

    You truly are blessed with great role models and with having your older family members still in your life. I was 14 when my father died of cancer and 36 when my mother died. I envy not just the wisdom but the presence and love you have from family. #MMBC

    • Catherine Lanser

      Hi Carol – Thank you for stopping by. Yes, I know I’m lucky to have my mom and other older relatives around. I didn’t have this with my dad, who passed away when I was 29, but time did give me a chance to grow in my relationship with my mom.

  4. Karen DeBonis

    Loved your use of old spices to tell your story Catherine. So glad you recognize that your mom has to make her own decisions. I recognize that for my elderly parents, but most of my 5 siblings don’t. If I didn’t think I’d piss them off, I’d show them your essay. I still might.

    • Catherine Lanser

      Isn’t family great? Lots of people means lots of help and lots of varying viewpoints. Good luck!

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