Ever since I discovered Early Bird Books a couple months ago, I’ve been making up for lost time. All my life I’ve loved books and reading, but it’s only now that I’m fully retired that I can truly indulge this passion like never before — especially thanks to the deeply discounted digital-book marketplace, Early Bird Books.
Now I can stretch out on my sofa after lunch every day with my laptop on my stomach and read (as if I were eating dessert) my delicious, best-selling, classic e-Book du jour in a large enough type font not to strain my burnt-out eyes.
My mother might have called me “a lazy bum,” the label she reserved for all those, especially her husband, my father, who did such a thing: reading a book when there was SO much work to be done. But then again, my mother never lived to enjoy her retirement years. If she had, I think she too would have appreciated this form of bliss.
As their website explains: “Early Bird Books brings you free and bargain e-Books that match your interests. You can sign up for free, read the books on any device, and the books are yours to keep.” (For more about them, go to: https://earlybirdbooks.com/.)
Every morning now I receive a long list of great books, including short blurbs about each, in the categories I’d chosen (Fiction, Historical Fiction, Biography and Memoir) that are on sale for only $1.99 (and sometimes $0). I scroll through the list quickly, sometimes ordering a book – especially the free ones – and sometimes not. Already my Kindle library has enough books on its “shelves” to last me many more months.
Among the wonderful Early Bird e-Book novels I’ve read in recent weeks are: Shirley Ann Grau’s Roadwalkers, Robert Hough’s The Stowaway, Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon, Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, A.J. Cronin’s The Keys of the Kingdom, Henning Mankell’s The Eye of the Leopard, and George Orwell’s Coming Up for Air.
So if anyone should ask me where I went this summer, I’d happily tell him or her that I traveled to the antebellum American South, I stowed away on a container ship called the Maersk Dubai, I got caught up in a near-deadly typhoon in the South China Sea, I joined a “bad” priest on the run in 1930s Mexico, I followed a young Scottish missionary as his faith was tested in China, I spent eighteen years in Zambia with a determined Swedish farmer, and I worried with a quirky little Englishman who’d served in WWI about rumors of a Second World War.
As I said: Bliss.
The e-Book I just finished reading, though, was not like these. I’d ordered it based on its title and its relevance to my WOW blog. The book is: Ageless Women, Timeless Wisdom: Witty, Wicked and Wise Reflections on Well-Lived Lives, by Dr. Lois Frankel. Frankly, I found this book, which was published in 2015 – not that long ago — disappointing.
I began to suspect that Dr. Frankel found most of her prospective interviewees in various old-folks’ homes (or should I say, retirement communities?) around the U.S., in addition to one old-nuns’ home in the Midwest. The life stories many of these women, all over seventy years old, told Frankel were predictable for their era: They married young, had a number of children in quick succession, and remained for decades in moribund marriages out of fear – fear of losing financial security, fear of failing to make it on their own, fear of being alone.
Then there they were: old widows, sitting placidly in the homes’ living room chairs, telling about their pasts for this book as if they had nothing else on their current agendas, and sharing such hard-won “wisdom” as:
“Patience is a virtue.”
“Eat right and enjoy life.”
“Stay open to whatever happens.”
“Learn from your mistakes.”
“Stop looking in the mirror.”
“Treat people the way that you would want to be treated.”
“Don’t trust men too much.”
The old nuns told of lives of service to the community and obedience to the rules. Several of them remembered the fun they’d had with their fellow sisters when they were young.
How sad, I thought, that this book should help perpetuate the tired stereotype of older women as sidelined and spent. Even Frankel’s language was surprisingly condescending. In her descriptions of some of her interviewees, she used such clichés as “this sweet, old, twinkly-eyed woman,” “she was sharp as a tack,” and “she was just a hoot.”
Perhaps, I thought, one of the reasons Frankel’s tone was so patronizing was that she was much younger than most of her subjects at the time she compiled these interviews. Frankel was born in 1953; she’s not even seventy years old now. Maybe if she were to write a sequel when she’s in her seventies or older, she would see and say things a lot differently.
This is a subject near to my heart, so forgive me if I go on. My strong view is that retirement is a time when we older women finally have time to expand our minds and our lives in ways we may not have been able to do before. This is a time for expansion, not contraction. This is a time for doing, not dithering. We have a responsibility, I feel, to make a contribution to the world around us before our time is up.
So here is a short list of some of my ideas for doing so. I invite you to add to it in the Comments section.
~ Learn a foreign language. Then, if you can, travel to a country where that language is spoken and try to talk with and learn from the locals.
~ Teach a group of neighborhood kids a fun handcraft (to tear them away from their hand-held devices). For example, show them how to make sock puppets, then put on a performance with those puppets. If you don’t know how to make sock puppets, Google it.
~ Take classes and workshops to excavate your buried talents, such as painting, writing, photography, healthy cooking, dancing, banjo playing, or whatever. Then share those talents with your circle.
~ Write a series of short, true stories from your life – and illustrate them with drawings or old family photos – to give to your grandchildren and their children as gifts (not to sell).
~ Join a gym or walk laps in the nearest park daily. Be a role model of fitness for younger women.
~ Attend concerts, lectures, and art events as regularly as possible.
~ Stay informed by reading reliable news sources.
~ Get involved in worthwhile causes; volunteer your time.
~ Become politically active. Stand up and speak up for what is right. At this stage, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
~ And, yes, of course, by all means — binge on good books!
News, views, reviews and interviews worth factoring into your life.