The Feast that is My Life

Sara Orem

By Sara Orem
Sara Orem, Ph.D, is a longtime OLLI instructor and member who also founded and facilitates OLLI @Berkeley's Vital Aging program.

Because I grew up in a fancy suburb of New York City, I didn’t realize my privilege at the time. Many more families and friends had more money, bigger houses and more elaborate vacations than my family did. Yet, looking back I was a very privileged kid. I went to a really good elementary school, a private high school and an exclusive women’s college.

I married at 19 and had three children by the time I was 25. That didn’t feel so much like a feast at the time but it meant my oldest was 20 when I was 40 and I still had lots of energy to return to work, to finish my education and to marry two more times.

While marriage hasn’t been my greatest achievement or even my happiest state much of the time, I’ve had relationships with three very different men, unique experiences with each of them, and five step-children to learn to relate to.

I learned to cook when, in my first marriage, my mother-in law gave me cookbooks for Christmas and my birthday. Still I didn’t cook enthusiastically (or competitively) until I was so embarrassed that my husband did all the cooking in the 1960s when that was pretty unusual — for us and guests — that I started to cook myself. I would never do that again! I would now have happily smiled as he took all the accolades for his prowess in the kitchen, which was considerable. But if I’d done that, I would never have learned to cook. I’m happy to find myself a good cook now and mostly enjoy experimenting in the kitchen for any occasion.

I sang semi-professionally in high school and music has always been a great joy to me. Many kinds of music give me pleasure, but sacred choral music is my favorite. I’ve sung in more than a few church and community choruses and love both the Messiah and Benjamin Britten’s St. Nicholas Cantata. Now I sing only in the shower or to show tunes while I cook dinner.

I’ve been to many parts of the world and, while I still have the travel bug, my husband is done. It remains to be seen whether I find a companion or fly solo to New Orleans, Sicily and the lake country of Italy. And please, take me to London at least once more.

I’m resigned to moving from robust health to — not so robust. It had to happen sooner or later and, after feeling sorry for myself for many months, I accept that pretty good health is healthy enough.

I watched a webinar this morning on the end of life and how to handle it, with an organization called Compassion and Choices. I’m not ready to go yet, but if I do, I’ve had a wonderfully rich life.

This essay was originally published by Sara on Medium, and is posted here with her permission.