About halfway through, Lucy Rose Fischer’s “I’m New at Being Old” (Temuna Press) was starting to look like the scariest picture book I’d ever read. The slim, lushly illustrated book about growing old was recounting the physical and mental symptoms of aging — a touch of forgetfulness (or is it the beginning of dementia?), aches and pains (“the breakdown of moveable parts”).
The way things were going, it was clear that living happily ever after wasn’t the next step in the process. Fischer writes, “I see ahead of me a black hole. … What part of me will I relinquish? What function will I surrender? Which friend or dear one will disappear into the void?”
But then, just as she speculates about caregivers and the conditions that await the truly old, she uses the word “someday,” a word that turns the book inside out. Fischer isn’t old; she’s new at being old, an inspired phrasing that recasts the long aging process as a journey filled with its own fun and achievement.
Fischer retired from a distinguished career as a sociologist, researcher, and professor in the field of aging. Now, she focuses on art, specializing in painting on glass, and her work has been exhibited around the world. In 2008, she was featured in the TPT documentary “The Creative Power of Aging.” This summer, Minneapolis’ Central Library will feature her work in the “Art of Aging” exhibit.
The technique transfers gloriously to the page; each illustration in this book is fanciful, shining, and full of life. She makes her point best not with the sparse text that moves the book along, but in the illustrations, which could not have been so rich without the layers of experience, history, and relationships that it takes a lifetime to accumulate — the beginning of a lifetime, anyway.
“The Art of Aging,” June 10 to August 2010, Central Library, Minneapolis.