Study Guide

Having Our Say Old Age

By Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

Old Age

We've buried so many people we've loved; that is the hard part of living this long. Most everyone we know has turned to dust. (1.1.6)

Yep, we're starting things off with a bummer. On one hand, it's great to live a long time; on the other, it must be an awfully lonely experience at times. Luckily, the sisters still have each other.

When people ask me how we've lived past one hundred, I say, "Honey, we never married. We never had husbands to worry us to death!" (1.4.2)

Although Bessie plays this off like a joke, there's truth to what she says—there's no telling how much extra stress a man would bring to her life. Plus, the sisters don't need husbands as long as they have each other.

We avoid hospitals because, honey, they'll kill you there. They overtreat you [...] Most of the time they don't even treat you like a person, just an object (1.4.9)

The sisters prefer their own down-home remedies to the dehumanization of the modern medical system. Hey—can't argue with the results.

Funny thing is, some days I feel like a young girl and other days I'm feeling the grave. (1.4.12)

Some days are good and some are bad. But that's a heck of a lot better than feeling like an old lady all of the time, so we're going to consider this one a win.

Papa said, "I don't think any of us will be here to see Halley's Comet the next time it comes around." Well [...] Bessie and I saw it again and it wasn't as good the second time. (3.8.19)

Again, we see how the loss of loved ones can make life less pleasant. This must be especially hard for the sisters, as they were once so close with their family. That being said, this passage puts just how long the sisters have lived into perspective.

Mama also kept losing her pension check. She started hiding it, and then she couldn't find it. And she wouldn't like to admit that she had lost it. (6.27.21)

The sisters get their first glimpse into their future when their mom moves in with them. To be honest, we could totally see Bessie doing this exact same thing—pride is one powerful emotion.

When you get real old, honey, you realize there are certain things that just don't matter anymore. [...] There's a saying: Only little children and old folks tell the truth. (6.28.12)

Isn't that the truth? Once you're old enough, you've earned your right to speak your mind without fear. Kids, on the other hand, simply haven't developed the mind-to-mouth filter that society demands of adults.

Bessie says that for the first time in my life, I seemed to come into my own, as an individual person. I was sixty-seven years old. (6.29.4)

Don't think that Sadie is done growing just because she's old—in many ways, she doesn't truly become herself until her mother's death. Talk about a late bloomer.

Truth is, we forget we're old. This happens all the time. (7.31.3)

The sisters are wild for their age, singing, dancing, and laughing 'til the break of dawn. But even they can't go on forever.

You know, when you are this old, you don't know if you're going to wake up in the morning. But I don't worry about dying, and neither does Bessie. We are at peace (7.31.24)

Sadie and Bessie have made peace with death. Maybe it's because they've experienced so much death in their personal lives—maybe it's simply because they know that it's inevitable. Frankly, they just seem grateful that they've been around for so long!