What Sort of Old Lady Will I Be?

There are few guarantees in this world, but one thing we can be sure of: as long as we keep living, we’ll keep getting older. Which means one day I’ll be an old lady.

So I’ve been wondering. What sort of old lady will I be?

As it so happens, I’ve known several old ladies in my lifetime. And for the most part, I’ve had some great role models.

Oh sure, there are always a few cranks in the bunch. (My first blog post listed the worst traits of Old Ladyism.) But in general, and in all sincerity, I’d say the women I’ve met have been real gems.

There are three in particular I wish to emulate. Here, in brief, are their stories. Remember, these are real people. Only their names have been changed

Indomitable Irene

IreneIrene stands about six feet tall. Maybe.

Truthfully, I’m not sure. But it sure seems like she stands six feet tall.

Once I was having a conversation with a man from church. He asked where my husband was and I told him he was working on a project with Irene.

This is what the man said in response: “You might want to make sure he’s all there when he gets back. Make sure all his parts are intact. Know what I mean?”

I knew what he meant.

Leaving behind for the moment whether this was an appropriate comment for a church person to make (I’ve said before my church isn’t typical; maybe now you’ll believe me), I will say that added in with this man’s snarky comment was a tone of utmost respect.

Because the fact of the matter is, if you want to get something done, you put Irene in charge. She might break some balls to do it, but dang if that woman won’t get it done.

She can be brazen, she can be blunt, she can be pushy, and she has offended people. She’s even offended me. But here’s another thing: you can call her out on it and if you’re right (and I was), she’ll admit her mistake and apologize.

For while Irene has an iron will, she also has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. And while I can’t prove it, I think that’s where she gets her iron will.

Could I, one day, be an Irene? I don’t know. I’ve much learning to do.

Lillian from Lansing


Lillian stands three feet tall and weighs about 40 pounds. What I mean to say is, Lillian is small. You get the feeling a strong gust of wind might carry her off.

Which may be why she and her husband, Burt, are almost always holding hands.

One day at church, I was standing next to Lillian and couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous emerald ring she was wearing. After the service, I commented on it.

“My daughter gave it to me for my birthday,” she said with pride. Then she showed me her earrings and necklace. Gifts from Burt and her son.

“I absolutely love jewelry, always have. So that’s what everyone gives me.” She leaned toward me and added in a whisper, “Choose your interests carefully, dear. It can pay off big time.”

Since then I’ve been paying more attention to Lillian. Her clothing is always simple, but her jewelry makes her outfits stunning. That, and her glorious mane of white hair that flows down her back.

Lillian has had her share of health problems; last year in particular was rough. But once she was back on her feet, she came back in style.

Could I, one day, be a Lillian? Unsure. My closet could do with an overhaul.

Dorothea of Widow’s Row

DorotheaWhile in Colorado, we attended a church with a mostly elderly congregation. There was a group of older women who attended service every Sunday and sat in the sixth row, right side. It came to be called ‘Widow’s Row’.

Dorothea was one of the widows.

She was a quiet, soft-spoken woman. One you’d probably not pay much attention to, as she didn’t belong to any groups or call attention to herself in any way.

The one thing Dorothea was known for was her chocolate chip cookies. She baked them several times a week and delivered them to people. She’d take them to a neighbor who was feeling ill, she’d take them to new parents, or someone who suffered a loss. She gave us a couple dozen when our son was in the hospital with pneumonia.

And when you complimented her, because truly, those cookies were the best, she always said the same thing: “Well, it keeps me busy.”

It was important for Dorothea to stay busy, because she was someone who knew great pain. Her daughter, her only daughter, was dead. After one year of marriage, in a fit of rage, her husband killed her.

I’m sorry to bring down the mood of this post so dramatically, but life sometimes does that to us, doesn’t it?

Without warning, it can deal you a crushing blow. Something  you are sure will tear the very breath from your body.

But somehow it doesn’t. Somehow, every morning, you breathe and eat and continue to exist.

You could stop there. You could become – what do they call it? – one of the walking wounded. But Dorothea didn’t stop there.

Eventually, miraculously, she found the strength to visit her son-in-law in prison. She even found a way to pray for him.

And somehow – I know this is hard to believe – somehow, in time and with much prayer, she forgave him.

It didn’t bring her daughter back. It didn’t ease her grief. But it did end her hatred.

And that’s when she started baking cookies. If you were lonely, if you were ill, or maybe there was no reason at all but she just got to thinking about you, you’d get a plate of cookies.

Could I, one day, be a Dorothea? Could I ever have that kind of strength and compassion?
Lord knows, I don’t want to find out.

And yet…

Life gives us no guarantees. There’s no way of knowing if our life will be easy or painful.

We could do as most people do and just push along, hoping for the best. Or — and this is the far wiser path — we could prepare ourselves as much as possible.


Well, prayer or meditation helps. A belief in something bigger than yourself. Setting goals, practicing self-discipline. You know the drill. Everything that builds character and feeds your soul. All of it helps.

But we should always be looking for role models too, and I propose we first look to the older men and women we know. Because who better than the people who’ve actually lived through all this and got the t-shirt?

At the very least, you’re bound to hear a good story or two. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll pick up a great recipe. (Thanks, Dorothea.)

Illustrations by R.J. Hartwell (aka, Daughter)

Dorothea's Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is exactly as Dorothea gave it to me, but you’ll notice it contains shortening and that is considered taboo nowadays. If that concerns you, I’ve made the cookies using 3/4 cup of coconut oil instead and they turned out great. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. Follow your own heart. 


  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flourDorothea's cookies
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 package (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 375°

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in medium bowl, set aside.
Combine sugars, shortening and vanilla, beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. At very end, stir in one teaspoon water.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet. Bake at 375° for 8 to 10 minutes until set and golden brown.

Note: The addition of one teaspoon water seems odd, right? Dorothea had no idea what the point was, but it was in her original recipe so she always included it. I, of course, had to experiment, so I made one batch with water and one without. What I found was that the water seemed to give them a more pleasing cookie shape. Other than that, I didn’t detect a difference. But the experiment sure gave me a lot of cookies to share. 🙂

25 thoughts on “What Sort of Old Lady Will I Be?

  1. Great stories. But from where I’m sitting, you’re going to be the old lady that young women look at and say “When I get old I want to be like her.”

      1. Kind of you to say so, but mostly I feel about as stylish as a beaten up, torn off corner of a discarded box! Perhaps “character” is a better descriptive 🙂

    1. Thanks Diane! I laughed out loud when she said that line, it was great. 🙂
      Have you ever done a search for health benefits of coconut oil? Holy cow, you’d think it was the elixir of life!

  2. I appreciate this so much as a lover of the older church ladies myself. And I’m pretty sure I know Irene. She exists in my former church in Wisconsin and she is a lovable force to be reckoned with. I also love how you included the cookie recipe. Did you do the drawings yourself? If so, I’m even more impressed. That artsy gene skipped a generation from my mother to my youngest child. I would also love a Chapter 2 on this post!

    1. EVERY church needs an Irene!
      The drawings were by my daughter, as the artsy gene skipped in a generation in our family too! Whenever I do something, it comes across childish. That’s okay with some posts, but I wanted them looking good on this one, so I commissioned her. Awfully glad I did!

  3. Lovely post. And if I had to take a guess, I’d say the old lady you become (decades from now, of course) will be its own unique thing, with bits of the ladies you mention above along with your own ingredients, creating a new version of personal humanity, an amalgam that will inspire someone in the future to do a blog post just like this one, about you…

    1. Golly, I honestly wasn’t expecting this kind of response. I swear I wasn’t fishing for compliments, nosiree, no-way-no-how.
      Hey, do you think this amalgam of mine would look better in a Mini Cooper or a Miata? I’m thinking red with racing stripes. What do you think? Too much?

      1. Well, the Mini Cooper would be a bit more practical, what with the extra room for your art supplies on those days when you go to the beach and paint the waves rolling in, but the Miata? Yeah, let’s go with that one…

  4. I love the women and your mini descriptions and artwork. I think a lot about the women who are in my life, some of whom have passed on, and I am reminded of their qualities and quirks. I think I should do what you have done and write them down so I can decide how much of each one I shall be when I am old-er.

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