This weekend I turn seventy.
I remember my own grandmother – at 70 she looked seventy, or what we conceived as ‘very old’ in those days – the 1950’s. I can recall her – tightly permed grey hair, a soft skin with a gentle powdered bloom upon it. I can’t remember wrinkles but I remember a daily floral dress and long floral pinnie as she dug deep into the grain bins to make up the poultry mash, or bending over to cut the carnations that edged her garden paths, or speaking to the tame seagull that used to visit her.
My own mother at seventy was a firecracker filled with energy. (In the picture above, she’s almost ninety). As a widow, Mum was in charge of her gardens, spent much time cooking and was a tornado cleaning her house. No paid cleaners for her – she did it all herself. Her furniture glistened, silver shone, the windows sparkled, fresh flowers sat in vases and when doors and window frames needed painting, she’d do it herself. At night, whilst watching TV and until MD made it intolerable, she’d always stitch. And in summer, she was well-known for swimming – her lithe little figure encased in a red swimsuit I bought her from Cairns.
I look in the mirror now and am surprised at the difference twelve months can make and I see a little bit of Mum. A lot of Mum. A metamorphosis. Wrinkles where there were none, deeper lines where there were some. Cellulite deposits where there shouldn’t be any. Eyes not as sharp as they once were. A certain physical tiredness at the end of a busy day and tendons that keep tearing. I’m told it’s most likely a mechanical wearing-down but the truth of it is that Mum had notoriously weak ligaments and so has my brother. So age be damned – it’s genetic.
When I think on it, as I grow older I place most value on my family. Ultimately, it’s all that matters. Sadly, I think many folk have high expectations as they advance through life. I’ve learned it’s best to have none and to wake each day with a view to it being filled with potential. Nothing more than that and certainly with no sense of entitlement.
Ageing has also taught me that I don’t need to fit in anymore but just to exist with acuity and empathy. It’s rather cleansing.
Perhaps I AM metamorphosing into old age. But even if that’s a truth, does it matter?
There’s a dear man I know who is nearly seventy and filled with wisdom and kindness that has nothing to do with his age. Equally I know a wee child filled with a naïve version of that same wisdom and kindness and he’s a lot younger than seventy.
I want to live the rest of my life with energy and joy. As a friend said at ballet class: ‘We’re a long time dead!’ And yes, that I agree with and so I shall muddle along, hopefully achieving daily contentment. But if not, that’s okay. There’s always tomorrow…
Being a writer, I can only compare life to writing a book. You begin with the first chapter and keep writing, the narrative metamorphosing as the book expands. It’s uniquely me, my own genes, my own DNA – my own story.
And I wouldn’t change it for quids.
I leave you with two quotes:
This from Mark Twain – ‘Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’
And this rather special one from Sophia Loren. ‘There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.’