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Why Do Old People Smell Like Mothballs?

Updated on October 4, 2015
Sallie Mullinger profile image

Sallie is a retired mother and grandmother who has written short stories for most of her life. Her stories are from her heart to yours.

No walkers or wheelchairs for this chicka!



"Her hands are now twisting with age and years of work,
Her hand now needs my gentle touch to rub away the hurt.
Her hands are more beautiful than anything can be.
Her hands are the reason I am me."


I refuse to stop dyeing my hair.

There! Ive said it publicly. Yes, I dye my hair!

Oh..you already knew that did you?

I guess by the time someone is in their 60s and they still have black as night hair with nary a trace of tattle tale white, it's a given that theres probably a meeting with Lady Clairol at least once a month.

I admit too, that I am vain. I want to look as young as I can for as long as I can. Even though my body defies that notion and I regularly wake up with so many aches and pains that it takes me a good half hour to navigate without stooping and hobbling like the Old Woman In the Shoe.

After all, its only me who knows the real truths.

HAH! Ive tried to convince myself that the passing of time is being gracious to me and in some respects, it is. I have very few wrinkles. A testimony, I am sure, to genetics and perhaps a small nod to the cosmetic world of which at least half resides in my bathroom. I readily admit to being a sucker for the latest anti aging, anti wrinkling, anti greying, anti gravity, anti anything product which promises that the fountain of youth will spring eternally from every jar, bottle and tube which cost an arm and a leg.

There is nothing at all wrong with aging. As long as one does it with a good amount of grace. I am not sure exactly what that means, but I suspect it has something to do with not kicking and screaming every year when our birthday's roll around. I do know that when I see other women younger than me, looking worse than me and appearing to not even try, I am heartened and smugly pat myself on the back for the efforts I have put into trying to maintain whatever looks I might have had.

Ahhhh..the lure of that elusive time machine which has the power to not only turn back time, but stop it before it tells the world how old you really are.

With tongue in cheek, I have recounted to you the vanity of a woman who truly wishes that she COULD turn back the clock. Yes, because I want to relive some of my youth, oh for certain! But also, because more time is needed. Very simply put..I want more time. I NEED more time.

It is not so much that I fear looking old as much as actually becoming old. Lines and wrinkles, while not exactly things I yearn for, don't bother me all that much for they tell a story.

I remember when my own mother was dying and I took her hands in mine and stroked them. I was aware of how they looked. Her hands were soft, but showed signs of age and suddenly, I remember thinking as I held those hands, that these were the same hands that held mine so many years ago and the same hands that cooked and cleaned for me and tucked me in and bathed me and they were the same hands that, so very long ago, held my father's hands as he was dying. And I grew misty-eyed at the realization that something as simple as a pair of hands, could relay the story of someone's life.

When we are young, we look ahead and can't wait to be older. Oh the innocence of being young! For by the time we are older, we only wish for that time, again, when we were young.

Are we ever happy?

Its ironic and somewhat of a dichotomy that by the time we seem to have life and its twists and turns figured out, we have reached the point in our lives where we are looking back more than looking forward. We've gone thru the growing pains of life and have some of its answers. But we are uneasily aware that with that wisdom, came age.

How is it that we go to bed one night a 30 something and wake up the next morning a 60 something? Did I forget to set my alarm clock and like Rip Van Winkle, sleep thru those years?

The seasons of life moved on with my barely recognizing that they were.

It goes too fast! Dammit! We all know it goes too fast. Its here one day and gone the next. In a flash, the little girl became a young woman full of hopes and dreams and eager to begin her life and in the batting of an eye, she is now a grandmother reaching for the magic potion in that jar of face cream which will guarantee a few more, good years.

Grandchildren: Ahhhh yes. They are little reminders, skipping thru our lives, calling to mind the cycles of life and as they run and jump and play hide and seek, they grab our hearts and we are aware of the changing roles we are now playing.

I would like to know, if it were possible, how many more years I have. I would like to know if I will be healthy in body and mind. I would like to know that I have enough time left to see those same grandchildren graduate from school, walk down the aisle and at some point, present me with great-grandchildren. I would like to know that I wont be a cumbersome, old lady, talking about the past all the time and boring the living daylights out of my much younger grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

I want to remain vibrant, viable, and validated. I want to still matter. I want my thoughts and feelings and advice to be well listened to and well heeded and I want never to be relegated to that horrible place where old people go when they don't seem to matter any longer. You know that place. Its where it feels lonely and cold even on the hottest day of the summer and dark despite a gloriously sun-splattered day.

I want those who love me to seek me out for advice and guidance. I want a granddaughter to come to me to tell me about her first love and especially when she might not be able to do that with her own mother. I want to be able to go to their school functions and their games without someone worrying about taking care of me. I want to be able to listen to them without having to strain to hear every word. I want my sons to reminisce with me about their childhoods without feeling embarrassed or odd for doing so. I want my daughter to remember how I brushed her hair and how I tried to have a gentle touch and how much I delighted in not only her beauty, but her brains. And I want to matter.

Oh! I said that didn't I? But I do want to matter! Its important for older people to know that they DO still matter..that even tho age has crept up and played its dirty tricks on us, that there is wisdom and value in things we might have to say.

And did I mention that I want to still be fun? I want to be able to hear a joke and get it. And I want to be able to laugh because it feels good to laugh and not just because it seems like the appropriate thing to do.

I don't want to complain about my aches and pains and my arthritis and my feet hurting and my back hurting. And I don't want to sigh and wish for the old days. And I don't want to seem long suffering. And God help me, but I don't want to talk about when I die as my own mother would do. Its such an awkward thing to handle when someone talks about dying. There really isn't much to respond to and it only makes everyone feel ill at ease and uncomfortable.

Getting old in our society can be a cruel twist of fate. And it can smack you down and zap your self esteem and take away the light that was once in our eyes. I fear that most.


I want to make a lasting impression on my grandchildren of being more than just an old lady sitting in a rocking chair perhaps knitting or nodding off. I want them to remember that Gramma wore makeup and smelled good and had pretty hair and wore jewelry and that she saw the Beatles and was around when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and that she had her own catering business.

And I hope to God, with all that I have in me..that when they DO remember me that they arent reminded of mothballs :)

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    • Sallie Mullinger profile image
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      Sallie Mullinger 3 years ago from Ohio

      Joan: I think it happens to all of us. I know I find myself doing things that remind me of my own mother. Some of those things I don't mind..others..not so much!

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      Joan Fryman 3 years ago

      Sallie, I just read this story again. I often do and say things, and say to myself, "you have become your mother"! I wonder how many other women have this same thought as they reach those wonderful years of being in their 60's and 70's.

    • Sallie Mullinger profile image
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      Sallie Mullinger 3 years ago from Ohio

      Youre welcome, Joan...I often think back to grandmother and even my own mother, at my age, and Im convinced that we are so lucky to live in the times we live in.

      Women don't seem to age the way they used to.

      But men still do!!!!!

    • profile image

      Joan Fryman 3 years ago

      Once again you've expressed how so many of us in our aging years feel. I think we all want the same as you - to be remembered and that hopefully, when we are no longer on this earth we leave behind good memories of us. I also think we need to have a good sense of humor and be able to joke and laugh about all the changes in our bodies AND minds!! Thanks, Sallie.

    • Sallie Mullinger profile image
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      Sallie Mullinger 3 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you! Im glad you enjoyed it and even more glad that you agree!

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Sallie, enjoyed reading this and I totally agree with all you have to say. I wouldn't mind turning the clock back a few years. Sigh! You said everything perfectly and all you want for your children and grandchildren re remembering you - I want the same. Great hub - thank you.

    • Sallie Mullinger profile image
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      Sallie Mullinger 3 years ago from Ohio

      :) thank you, Bethy

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      Beth 3 years ago

      Well said, dear Sallie! I wonder all the time now where time went. VERY well said. :)