"When grandma gets her mad up, if you're wise, you'll keep well clear of her wrath!
Old age affects all of us who arrive at its door, very differently. Some mellow with the years and a few start to do all manner of crazy death-defying stunts like hang gliding, bungee jumping or parachuting; almost anything which is capable of stopping the heart. The real reason they behave in this way is just to get use to facing death head on and beating it. Some choose to accept nature's lot and grow old gracefully, while others fight against the lines in one's face by recourse to cosmetic surgery and the wearing of clothes designed for a another, thirty years younger. For those poor souls who enter into a world of dementia, old age usually means no more than the 15-hour daily occupation of the same chair in an old folk's home, with a roomful of residents watching silent television and getting the occasional visit from someone who looks like someone they used to know.
Paradoxically, we negotiate the first half of our life being told by someone what to do, and for the second half, we concern ourselves with what we should have done, but never got around to. Ironically, life is half spent before half of us know where it's gone. Often, it appears that we live it the wrong way around. When we're young and struggle to pay for a mortgage and a growing family, money is thin on the ground; then, when we get past 65 and have 'made it', that's the time we discover 'we've had it.'
From pension age onward, our health starts to suffer from rheumatic bones and we are unable to get about without exchanging knees and hips, whilst hoping that we gave up smoking early enough for it to have made a difference to our life span. Many fear that they don't contract any one of the two hundred different kinds of cancers on offer. Slowly, we grow to learn that all diseases tend to meet up in old age. At the very least, as we grow older, life becomes a continuous process of getting tired more easily and needing afternoon naps. For the very first time in our lives, we make a point of protesting about the closure of public toilets whenever we go for a long walk and are caught short.
Also, it is a myth that wisdom comes with old age, as far too often, age shows up just by itself! If only youth knew how to change and the aged could, we would all have cracked it!
I once had an elderly neighbour who used to get extremely angry whenever others tried to help him or offer assistance. Once he told me in a round about way to mind my own business and to stop worrying about him. 'Know this, Mr Forde, I haven't lost my marbles yet. Should ever you hear that I've broken my neighbour's windows or taken an axe to him, know that I meant it!'
While many old folk surrender to old age too quickly, thankfully there are more who have no intention of leaving the stage until they've played their full part; they refuse to live by the calendar. Some find a new freedom never before experienced, as they learn they've now reached an age which can work in their favour. They rejoice in entering a time in their lives when deafness can become too frequently a convenience, and conformity to polite expectation, a thing of the past. No more will polite convention control the responses of the ageing, by pretending to like things and people they cannot stand, or be made to go to places they do not want to go, or do things they just don't want to do! And once they grow to understand that in a crowded social gathering, they are the only person present who can break wind and hear no complaint from those stood close, they know that they've finally cracked it! For them, no more naughty corners, except those in which they choose to be naughty.
Having reached my 73rd year of life, going on 74, while I've been forced to slow down, I will continue to dream of times to come. I will never regret growing old, for I know it's a privilege denied to too many who left this life before they were ready to do so. I still feel that younger person inside my old body, even though I sometimes wonder what has happened of late. Youthful passions still stir within me, though I now accept that my will won't, as it once did. I suppose the trick is to grow up without growing old. We should never lose sight of the child within us, the place where we were born, the effect of our ancestry, the values of our parents, and the importance of our God. Neither should we ever feel too mature to stop believing in the the power of love and the magic of the moment.
I will end with a thought that my mother used to say when I use to tell her she was getting too old to do this or that any longer. 'Billy, no person grows old while ever they seek out goodness in the world.'" William Forde: October 3rd, 2016.