My hair is rapidly turning gray. Truth be told, it is streaked with a good percentage of grey, although for the most part I still appear to have brown hair. I will soon turn 65, so my having grey hair is no surprise. Funny thing is, my internal system waited until I had retired last June before the exponential greying process really became apparent. It is almost as though my internal ticker wouldn’t allow my outward appearance to grey until I was through with my professional teaching career, working with teens. That’s a good thing, I guess.
As I reminisce about important persons in my life who have had grey hair, I think back to my childhood to my two sets of grandparents. My dad’s parents, Popo and Momo Newton, were always grey. As a child, I don’t ever remember them not being grey. It came with the territory. Oscar and Alma were city dwellers, refined, and fascinating to me. Since I grew up on a farm, my getting to spend a few days a couple of times a year in the big city was quite exciting. Popo would take me by the hand and walk me to the corner store and buy me penny candy. Honestly, this was the only time I had that kind of experience. Popo and Momo had this huge two story house, with an attached apartment. The attic could be accessed through another staircase, and it was a fun place to play hide-and-go seek. Popo had a large nose and a twinkle in his eye. He loved to plop me on his lap and let his bumblebee pointer finger find my belly button. I would squeal with laughter.
My mother’s parents were farmers. Grandma and Grandpa Brown were country folk who had 100+ acres on which they had traditionally grown cotton, but in later times grew vegetables. Arch Thomas and Mattie were as different as day and night, except that they both had beautiful grey hair. They were the essence of old age, still full of vigor and energy and activity. G’pa was a peddler. Mornings when we would be visiting, we would rise before sunup around 4:30 a.m. and go out into the fields with him to harvest the vegetables he would later sell to markets sprinkled here and there in the county. My older brothers, Eldon and Charles, often got to accompany G’pa on his peddling trips. I was jealous of their liberty, for I was sure that G’pa would treat them with a soda or a candy bar, something I wouldn’t get because I was a girl and too young to accompany them on the trip.
Lillian Newton, my mother, greyed at an early age. I remember as a preteen noticing her salt-and-pepper hair. I didn’t much like it then, thinking that my mom was old. Aren’t all adults old when one is under ten years of age! By the time I was a young adult, mom’s hair was dark grey, and then it turned silver. To me, mom’s halo of grey hair was an outward indicator of an angel within. She was the model mother and my friend as I moved through adulthood. Grey hair had come to take on a different meaning to me, since I too was beginning to find one grey hair, then another, then a few.
So here I am, about to hit the magic age of 65 (at least Medicare thinks my approaching age is magic!) Do I mind that my brown hair is gradually greying? Not a bit! It is, after all, a natural process, much like added wrinkles, age spots, and other attributes that come with old age. It is difficult to think of oneself as “old”, but it is a fact. The only thing I can control is my attitude about it. I can bemoan the process or relish the honor of old age. I prefer to do the second.
By Joy Healy