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Centenarian Poet Was A Fearless Guide To 'The Country Of Old Age'

Margaret Howe Freydburg — seen here at 104 — was still writing and publishing well past her 100th birthday.
Margaret Howe Freydburg — seen here at 104 — was still writing and publishing well past her 100th birthday.

Old age is in the news today — very old age. According to media reports, a 117-year-old Japanese woman has died; she was said to be the world's oldest person.

So we're going to take a moment to remember poet and author Margaret Howe Freydberg, who died last week at the age of 107. She was was young at heart — but also very honest about her thoughts on aging. "I think growing old, I think old age is disgusting," she told a historian in 2009.

"The lack of coordination, the imbalance, the fear — always about to fall down --the physical part of it," she said. "But you stop complaining about it because of course it's inevitable. What joy is there? Just loving, that's the joy."

Freydberg — known to friends as Peggy — was a longtime resident of Martha's Vineyard. Earlier in her life, she wrote articles and short stories before moving on to novels, and then, in her 90s, to poetry and a book called Growing Up in Old Age.

Vineyard resident Nancy Slonim Aronie knew Freydberg well and hopes many more people will learn from her writing — and her life. "In my mid-70s, I have more wrinkles than she did and many more questions," Aronie says.

"She had written, 'And so I stand in this open countryside, where there are no familiar landmarks. Ad it comes to me suddenly that yes, this is the country of old age. I am old. What's more, I accept the reality.'"

Aronie remembers her friend's "gift of language, her genuine humility and her deep, deep wisdom. Knowing Peggy," she says, "has been one of the biggest blessings of my life."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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