Let’s Talk with Karla Brandenburg

What is “Old?”
by Karla Brandenburg

My mother always said old is a state of mind. You’re only as old as you feel. I gotta tell ya, some days I feel pretty darn old!

Last year I was at a birthday party with my daughter and one of her friends came up to her and asked, standing beside me, “How old is your mother?” I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Was she implying I looked old? Acted old? Or was it the opposite? I didn’t ask, I didn’t really want to know the answer to that question.

And then there was the time I was at work and meeting with one of my colleagues. We were discussing parental tax issues and she also made a comment about age. “I don’t feel my age, do you?” And she was younger than me. My response to her was that there are days I absolutely feel my age (and more!).

Age40Everybody has their own opinions about what is old and how they age, and a lot of that depends on your current age. When you’re 16 and you look at a 21 year old, you might say “wow, you’re old!” And then when you turn 30, you hit that “what do I have to show for my life?” (as if it’s over) and so on and so on as the years increase.

A year ago, I was given an anthology of short Christmas stories, sweet romances. One of them was about an “older” woman. You don’t see a lot of romances that deal with characters of a certain age, and although I enjoyed the story, I was offput by the health issues of the hero. He had a pacemaker, which felt a little cliché for an “older man.” The characters were presented as late 40’s, early 50’s. While I realize health issues increase with age, and certainly the pacemaker was not a stretch, as a reader, I felt those characters were entitled to a few more “healthy” years.

And then I thought of my mother again. I would often share with her “fun” videos featuring old people, and she was highly offended that I found them entertaining, in her opinion, based on the age of the subjects. What she missed was that those things were entertaining despite the age of the subjects involved. There was one where an old couple was waiting in a doctor’s waiting room with a large atrium. They sat down at a piano and did a duet, mimicking an old Victor Borge routine where they switch places on the bench. I always loved those old Victor Borge clips, and so did my mother, so I didn’t understand when she didn’t think it was a cute video! My mother refused to acknowledge age.

In the series I’m currently working on, I ran into an interesting issue with the mother of one of my families. She had five children and the series focuses on those siblings, so when I introduced a man in the mother’s life, I started to do the math. Too often we think of mothers as old, but based on the ages of her children, her life is far from over (which she was only too happy to tell her oldest daughter!).

As a reader, I prefer to read about characters within a certain age range, but with this latest series I stopped to wonder how many people would be interested to read about an “older” woman’s second chance at life and love. Would that be too much like an older couple playing musical chairs while playing a piano duet?


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