Monday, 21 August 2017
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Gloria Vanderbilt, Lesley Stahl and You

Leslie Stahl

The most personal details of our lives, when revealed, are the ones which most strongly connect us.

It is another wonderment of our over 60’ness.

I’ve always felt a bond to other women of my generation. They are from all walks of life, with baggage or not, looking and dressing in all kinds of ways, married or not, with children or not, living close by or not, with money or not. Several of these are true friendships which span decades.

My own life events tested my faith and strength to go on, and stretched those bonds of friendship (although in the end they endured). When, at 32, I lost my husband, well-meant condolences left me feeling more disconnected than anything else. Being a single mother of four in a world of nuclear suburban families, we were an oddity. Being involved in politics in a decidedly against-all-odds climate,
I was a go-to target for all kinds of criticism. And later in my life, being a bereaved mother leaves one vulnerable to all kinds of sadness and loneliness. In retrospect, such feelings are deeply personal, but also universal. We are all connected. We have so much to share, we have lots to say. Perhaps we are the first generation with the freedom to open our hearts.

So you can imagine my excitement when I unexpectedly, gloriously connected to two very AWESOMEover60 women; both of whom I knew by name only. This happened by taking a noontime break to watch “Charlie Rose” on PBS. Talk about the energizing power of the media! I was mesmerized.

First, Gloria Vanderbilt and son, Anderson Cooper. I remember reading about her in Seventeen magazine in the 50s and have at least two of her books on the shelf. I have always found her wealth daunting, but beyond that, Gloria Vanderbilt’s candor and the image of a privileged, artistic, honest, and slightly lonely woman have remained. Over the years, small tidbits were reported; but nothing that caught my attention until now.

The televised interview of 92-year old Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper by Charlie Rose was a frank and beautiful conversation about the relationship between mother and son. The show struck a chord and forged a deep and precious personal bond to a woman whom I will never know personally. In the wake of this moving episode, I have ordered their book, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Loss and Love,” and will be sure to watch the HBO documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid.” Lest you feel out of touch with such wealth and status, keep in mind what one on-line reviewer stated: “This is a stark reminder that no amount of money can prevent the heart from breaking.” I think that we all can relate.

Gloria Vanderbilt in 1958 (age 34). Photo by Carl Van Vechten.

I had been taking deep breaths since the Vanderbilt/Cooper interview when, a day or so later, Charlie did it again! This time, his guest was Lesley Stahl whom I watch on “60 Minutes,” but about whom I knew nothing else. And here she is, at age 74, voicing the very thoughts and personal issues I have experienced in being a grandmother! Her book, “The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting,” describes her transformation after becoming a Grandmother: the impact on her life, the powerful love in ways never before felt, and the opportunity that Grandmothers have to create an exquisite, joyful relationship with the children of their children or of extended families.

So here I am sharing life with Gloria and Lesley, two new bonds in one week with women speaking out later in life about very personal, very universal issues. This is exciting, I’m telling you!

Gloria and Lesley, along with countless women of our generation, some of whom I know personally, are aging without becoming old. We are relevant. What’s more, we are willing to share our experiences in ways we couldn’t have earlier. Much of this is due to the internet and the realization that to be open and truthful is to be human.

Advertisers, the public, and women themselves are standing up and taking notice. Take for example the new insightful and compelling PBS series: “Next Avenue,” and AARP’s newly released publication,
“Disrupt Aging,” which introduces ideas on how to live and age.

AWESOMEover60 gives voice to the generation of women who now feel a desire to reflect on the past, to live in the moment, and to shape our future by exploring, discovering, risking vulnerability, and creating new traditions. We are the generation which opened the doors that younger women have gone through. We were the catalysts; we take nothing for granted, and we are used to being misunderstood by others.

We know that life is, on the one hand, fragile and precious; and on the other, as rock solid as can be.
For me, I relate to all of it. I feel a deep need to sift through the contents of my life, real and in memory, and decide what to keep and what to toss, what to use, what to save for others. Carving out a new life for myself in a new state, on a new path, takes faith, determination, and connectedness. We may, as generations never before, have decades of life ahead of us. There is time to create a vision for your life; the integration of our inner and outer selves to fully express the women we are. Along with Gloria and Lesley, we have heartfelt stories to tell.

photos: Gloria Vanderbilt in 1958 (age 34).  Photo by Carl Van Vechten.  Lesley Stahl at the LBJ Presidential Library in 2010. Both Royalty Free Photos

Read more about the author of this story Joan M. Wright at www.awesomeover60.com



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