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Role Models

By Morgan Baker

When I turned 65 last spring, I was pumped. My Medicare was secure, I was healthy, and… my debut memoir was being released the day after my birthday. What more could I have asked for? I felt young, revitalized and looking forward to what would come next.

Celebrating my birthday with the book couldn’t have been more fun. I had a birthday/book party, and a great book launch at my favorite indie bookstore, Porter Square Books, in Cambridge. My family and friends surrounded me with love.

If someone had told me that I, a writer and writing professor, would publish my first book at 65, I would have rolled my eyes and wondered what was wrong with me. Most “real” writers publish much younger than that. At 65, there wouldn’t be a lot of years after to develop my writing career.

While the world values youth more than older people, I grew up admiring my grandmother and my mother for the way they embraced their “later” years.

At 57, my grandmother became a widow. She moved to a new home, and reinvented herself.  She ran for the Connecticut Legislature in 1965 and did four terms on the education committee. I was a kid, and just thought, that’s what grandmothers did.

I have been writing and teaching since my late 20s. But it wasn’t until my mid-50s I realized I had a book in me. It took a long time, and a pandemic, but I got it written and published.

I was wrong. It was astonishing to see what she accomplished in her 60s and 70s. Similarly, my mother stopped teaching and being a school librarian in her late 50s. She founded a curriculum guide company for children’s literature that she and a business partner kept going for ten years and then sold. After that, she tutored, ran a volunteer program and then worked for affordable housing, which she was still doing when she got sick at 69.

I have been writing and teaching since my late 20s. But it wasn’t until my mid-50s I realized I had a book in me. It took a long time, and a pandemic, but I got it written and published.

Sometimes life is out of our control. I didn’t get a big 5 to sign me. I couldn’t get an agent. But I also believed in my book and my story, and I recognized that when I looked in the mirror, I was seeing more little lines on my face, especially above my lip. I didn’t want to see the book go into a filing cabinet to be discovered by my daughters when I died. I found a small publisher that assured me I would get it published fast.

I’m now working on a second book.

The Author, with Grandma

I still teach – at college and privately on  Zoom. And I still write. But I wonder how much longer? Do I want to stop so I can travel with my husband? Do we want to move? What about our children?

I guess I want everything – work, travel, and be a mother and grandparent.

Because my mother died youngish, I am panicked the same will happen to me. I still have things to do and people to be with. I have no intention of going anywhere. My mother was so mad when she got sick. She cried when she learned the cancer had gone to her brain. “Now I won’t have my birthday party,” she said to me in her hospital room. I had to turn away.

That woman loved parties. Her 50th and 60th were memorable. Big dance parties. I was 40 at her 60th and I was so impressed that these 60-year-olds were rocking out. Her 70th was going to be more mellow – a family trip – husband, kids, spouses, children, and dogs to a resort in New Hampshire. But it never happened.

I want to watch my kids grab their dreams. I want to have adventures with my husband, and I want to finish my second book. I don’t want to die soon. I can’t die soon.

I want to do something special for my 70th. A family trip sounds great. Maybe Hawaii instead of New Hampshire.

What I learned from these role models is getting older doesn’t suck. And even if you lose a partner like my grandmother, there are ways to move forward and live.

I want to meet my grandchildren, I want to watch my kids grab their dreams. I want to have adventures with my husband, and I want to finish my second book. I don’t want to die soon. I can’t die soon. I have a lot of role modeling to do.


About the Writer

Morgan Baker is the managing editor of The Bucket and lives in Cambridge, MA. Her award-winning memoir, Emptying the Nest: Getting Better at Goodbyes came out in May ‘23. She spent a year in Hawaii in 2019, and writes about this experience in her Bucket article, Holy Aloha!. She teaches writing at Emerson College in Boston, and privately. Her writing has also appeared in Grown & Flown, Motherwell, Cognoscenti, The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe Magazine, The Brevity Blog, Thebark.com, and The Martha’s Vineyard Times, among other publications. In 2006, she won the Gold Award for feature writing from Parenting Publications of America and in 2018 was an award winner in The Writing It Real winter contest for her essay “Talk Much?”

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Char Wilkims
13 days ago

It’s so important to hear older women’s life stories that inspire us to keep living each day, each minute, doing what we love. There’s a 93 yr. old role model in our neighborhood bursting with life, walks daily, drives, lives by herself. At 77, I’m inspired every time I talk with her!

Kelly Turner
Kelly Turner
9 days ago

Wow, Morgan – it’s powerful to hear how these women inspired you. I count my grandmothers as two of my biggest influences.

Your grandmother’s reinvention of herself after becoming a widow is impressive. “. . .that’s just what grandmothers did.” 😉

It sounds like your mom loved living. That’s something to aspire to, too.

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