Gyasi Ross: Becoming an elder or just getting old
"I feel very fortunate to be a 30-something who still has a living grandparent; very lucky.

Since my father passed at a pretty young age, I tend to think of “aging” and “mortality” a bit more than the average bear. For example, I look at my 87-year-old grandmother and wonder, “When, exactly, did she become an old lady?”

Of course I’ve always thought of my grandma as “old” – even when she was in her 50s and 60s. She is my grandma, after all and all grandmas are “old,” right? Plus, for Skins 50s and 60s is “old!” For Skins who are members of larger/poorer tribes, 50s and 60s are ancient. A sad/real/funny story: One of my good friends – from Pine Ridge, where the life expectancy of a Lakota man is 48 years – called me up a few days after his 25th birthday and told me, “Bro, I just missed my mid-life crisis!”

Me: “Sucks for you!! Guess I won’t be sending you a Corvette and gift certificate for the, er, massage parlor!”

Sixty years old, however, is really not that old to the rest of world. Perhaps we Skins have a slightly skewed perception of age and health?

Anyway, that’s not the point (“I digress”). See, I always thought of my grandmother as “old” even though she never really acted “old.” Sure, she was a scary driver and ate dinner at two in the afternoon, but she rarely complained about arthritis, wore dentures or took Metamucil. Nope, she was vital and strong! In fact, up until I was 13 years old, she could beat me in a footrace – honestly. Granted, I was a chubby, pigeon-toed 13-year-old whose idea of exercise was playing lawn darts and Tecmo Bowl, but still, you would have thought that I was faster than an almost 70-year-old!

An embarrassing, but true fact."

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: 22.0: Revered and respected elder, or dusty old codger? (Indian Country Today 11/2)

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