De Senectute

My hands are worn and my vest is worn. I was able to buy a new vest yesterday, but I am not sure what to do with my hands and the body to which they are attached.

old hands

old hands

old vest

old vest

What started this line of thought: A few days ago my husband Tom read an article that noted that people 65 and older are “elderly.” As I am going to have my 65th birthday in a little over two months, I was not happy to hear it. “Older” I have been using for years. “Mature” I have used as a joke. “Old” I have recently accepted because to do otherwise would seem—to myself and to others—like I was avoiding reality, but “elderly”? I’m not going there. Then there were the articles in the New York Times: I read three of them about aging–one after the other. One article talked about retired people getting rid of possessions and traveling the world as carefree vagabonds. Another article talked about how the elderly (harrumph) can find pleasures in doing the small things in life like going to the public library. The final article talked about some Baby Boomers’ discomfort at finding themselves old.

Looking Backward: When I was a freshman in college, I translated Cicero’s De Senectute (On Old Age). I remember that I found the topic boring, that I wasn’t very good at the translating, and that I only got a C in the class. The good thing about this class for me was that it was Cicero and Catullus, and I loved Catullus.

I forget what Cicero had to say about old age, so I am not going to get any advice there, but I remember what Catullus had to say about love and I suspect that might help me as I look forward. As Catullus wrote to his beloved, I say to my husband: “Suns may set, and suns may rise again: but when our brief light has set, night is one long everlasting sleep.”*

ravens on the South Rim at sunset

ravens on the South Rim at sunset

Note: If you haven’t read Catullus, I recommend Catullus: The Complete Poetry translated by Frank O. Copley. Used copies seem to be available on the Internet from $.01 upward. A new copy sells online for $506.98. Somewhere in storage in Charlottesville, I have my own copy of Copley and perhaps, the notebook where I wrote my own translations.

* This excerpt from poem #5 is translated by A. S. Kline at http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Catullus.htm#_Toc531846828

3 thoughts on “De Senectute

  1. ruthieterrill

    I have a hard time seeing either you or Tom as “old”. You do more and have far more energy than people half your age. Also, as my mother used to say “consider the alternative!”. Love to both of you!

    Reply
  2. David M.

    You say you only got a C in Latin, but I’m pretty sure the Roman numeral “C” is 100. So you actually aced that class. (And a “D” would have been five times better than that!)

    Reply
    1. lyndaterrill Post author

      hahaha–you’ve relieved my mind. I always felt kind of lousy about those Cs I got in Latin. Of course, now I know that I should have been even more confused so that I could have gotten Ds. On reflection, I appear to be an underachiever however I figure it!

      Reply

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