The movie Diane starring Mary Kay Place makes aging look pretty depressing. We saw it last Friday night. Diane is seventy years old when the movie begins, a widow in a small town in Massachusetts. She is doing all the ‘right’ things to try to make the last third of her life meaningful.
She’s helping others. She volunteers at a drop-in that serves meals to the homeless and she delivers homemade casseroles to ailing friends and relatives. She visits patients in the hospital.
She’s connected to people. She maintains a relationship with her only son and his partner even though it requires tremendous effort on her part. She has friends she meets with regularly for meals and card games. She has close contact with her extended family and gets together often with them.
She has interests. She journals and reads and writes poetry. She takes walks in the woods and has bird feeders around her home. She attends church. She likes music.
She makes lists of things to do each day setting goals and tasks for herself.
But despite all these efforts at engagement and connection her life still is pretty sad and bleak. People she is close to keep dying. She tries to stay busy but there is still substantial time when she is alone and lonely. During these solitary hours she thinks about her past, the mistakes she’s made and worries if she is doing enough to atone for them.
Diane knows the limitations of her situation and for the most part accepts them with grace, but every once and a while her anger and frustration bubbles to the surface.
In the last years of her life my mother-in-law often said that growing old was not for cowards. The movie Diane makes that abundantly clear. I’m not sure if I am glad I saw it or not.