Nov. 24, 2023
ISBN13 979-8852313423; 269 pages
In her new memoir, The Old Lady and the Kid, Texas writer Sonja Klein delivers well-crafted essays rich with wit and hard-earned opinions on life, love, heartache, loss, and traveling the world at ages when many people fear leaving home. In previous works, readers have been drawn to her wry and often zany reflections on topics such as family misadventures, ranch-life challenges, and countering the behavior expectations that younger people often place on senior citizens. As she declared in her 2020 book Ready Set Go: "Living or dying, adventure awaits."
The Old Lady and the Kid continues that stride-forward attitude. But this time, Klein also slows down occasionally and digs deeper into some still-painful times in her life. For example, while facing new complications from aging and having a serious illness, she also has continued to grieve the loss of her daughter, Molly, to murder several years ago. That tragedy, however, also thrust her into a challenging new role at age 79: caretaker of a young child.
"Since I became guardian/mother/grandmother of my 11-year-old grandson following the death of his mother, my life has drastically changed," Klein writes. "I have also become the chronicler of comments from all kind of folks who wish to express an opinion on my status.
"The one most common is 'Good for you! Kids keep you young.' I smile and thank them for their interest, but deep down I want to scream, 'I am old! I like being old. I don’t want to be young, I have been young, I don’t wish to be young again. I just want to be old and enjoy my later years served by well-earned wisdom and healthy pursuits that keep me going.'”
Fortunately, the grandson, Theiss, brings much more to his new home than the typical complications, demands, and challenges of a maturing adolescent. As he grows, he travels with Klein to several parts of the world, develops loves for learning and cooking, and helps her after a life-threatening medical condition is discovered that requires harsh, lengthy treatments.
In this new book, as in earlier titles, Klein does not shy away from questions and controversies that reach beyond the realm of home, family, and mortality. Her outspoken takes on several current hot-button issues may surprise some readers and perhaps even rankle a few.
As a self-described "child of the 1960's," Klein expresses fears for what current technology is doing to education and freedom of speech in the United States. "No one was afraid to speak out then [in the Sixties]," she declares in her book, "and we were mainly just a lot more free. Now it seems our lives center around our cell phones and tech devices. We’ve become dependent. We no longer think for ourselves. What happened to us?" She is a strong advocate for homeschooling. Meanwhile, she is appalled at how much food and packaging Americans waste and how many good products simply are tossed away and replaced rather than cleaned or repaired. National and international political topics also get some brief but sharp-edged turns in her new book.
Klein continues to draw renewed hope from nature's wonders, from some of the people she encounters, and from the universe's endless mysteries, possibilities, and unanswered questions. "All around us are reasons for joy, passion, energy," she counsels. "Find them and rekindle the fire in your life and sparkle in your eyes."
She has described herself as "a writer, solo traveler, avid reader, and ranch owner in a remote area of Texas with abundant wildlife and spring waters." And she has been called "the Jack Kerouac of West Texas." Some of her other books include Honk If You Married Sonja; Saplings, Switches, and Twigs; and Ambushed by America. She also writes poetry and short stories.
"There will never be a moment when everything is right with the world," she advises in The Old Lady and the Kid, "and that is okay with me."
Sonja Klein grew up in the north Houston area of Klein and graduated from the University of Texas. She lives on a ranch in southwest Texas.