Thursday, 12 April 2012

Many Parts

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

There is a landmark birthday coming up for me this week and, unlike my reaction at other landmark birthdays - 65, say, or 40 - the number is bothering me. I will be 70 and I identify that number as definitely old. Real old age. This is not making me happy: rather, it is making me grumpy, lethargic and disenchanted with all of the things I usually enjoy and plan for.

I am not sure why reaching this age is such a big deal for me. Possibly there is an echo from the fact that both my mother, her younger sister and my beloved sister-in-law were all fragile and unwell by that age. Possibly it's the 'three-score-and-ten' identifying line. Certainly the belief that this length is the allotted span of a life was part of the things I was taught as a child. Women acted old at seventy in the fifties. They dressed the part and tailored their activities to fit. When I was twelve my mother was a slim, fit 45 who played tennis, ran and was vigorously interested in everything. My grandmother was a small creature bundled in black who had no waist, no teeth, no stamina and no interest in much that I could see except tea and gossip. She was 68. In fairness, my grandfather died that year but my grandmother never recovered, never returned to any of the interests and skills I remember her having when I was a little girl, although she lived to be 93.

The boomer culture has changed that expectation and the image of seniors - we now have 'golden years' and 'zoomers' (!) and slim, fit white-haired couples on beaches, on golf courses and in Viagra advertisements, wrinkles airbrushed and mouths full of expensive implants. Frankly, I have been annoyed by the boomers and their culture all my life and see no reason to buy into the fantasy now. Being old is a fact, it comes to us all and no tummy-tuck, supplement or regime will prevent it. Certainly it comes at different ages and in different ways - I also had an aunt who, well preserved and well-corseted, played golf into her eighties, as well as a mother-in-law who was active and interested well past that age and who just had her 95th birthday.

I don't want to follow any of these examples, not the fifties' assumptions nor the sixties' never-grow-old euphoria. I would like to age 'gracefully', certainly. Who wouldn't. I have found that living through my sixties is like living in a 'heritage' home, rather than a new one. It takes a lot of upkeep and is certainly not provided with the latest and best wiring and insulation. But it can have grace and character, if you put the work and thought into it. That's the problem, though, as I think about it. I have to think about it. There is no part of me, external or internal, that remains low maintenance. From the thin white hair to the problem toe nails, the upkeep is a lot of work. Boring, unrewarding work that takes a lot of time. Alas for the fleeting joys of youth - or even middle age.

That's four paragraphs of whining and so, enough of that! I should be outside fertilizing lilies and retrieving topsoil for a new perennial bed. I should be working on this week's photo challenge, which is 'wind' with either a short or long 'i' according to glorious leader. I should maybe clean the kitchen counter, make the bed, put a load of laundry in, get on with the program. I need library books, the freezer needs organizing, the light-weight clothes, ditto. And I do not have to do all of this after eight hours of being gainfully employed. Nor am I full time custodian of either kid or dog. And I have my teeth, the use of all my limbs and a brain that can still be stimulated into something resembling intelligence by enough coffee.

And I have one chocolate truffle left in the box that the Easter Bunny (aka JG) left on my bedside table. So, I am going to be 70 in only a few days. Too bad, but the alternative is not attractive either.


  1. Happy Birthday and I would agree with you, ageing gracefully is the best thing. I think you are remarkably busy and active. Enjoy every day to the utmost!

  2. Happy Birthday in a few days. I have nothing else to add except that I love the way you write and if I can manage to produce such prose by the time I am approaching 70, I will consider myself fortunate indeed.

  3. Dearest Mary, bless you at Almost Seventy and well beyond! Just reading all you do/must do/will do/have done wears me out at Almost Fifty-three. All you say, and aptly metaphorical, too, is so true. My sister, who just turned sixty, had a difficult time of her milestone for some reason, and took a few Wallowing Days to get herself straightened out. Perhaps it is Early Spring, perhaps it is the Atmosphere, who knows? Take a bit of time, consider the alternative to Lasting This Long, and then carry on. You look terrific.

    Oh, and I hasten to point out that you are out of chocolate.

  4. A good post. I don't know why 70 seems so much more profound that 69, but that's the way that it is.

    I don't think Boomers changed that much about the times. I think these changes would have happened even there had not been a baby boom. That's my personal opinion, and I'm probably wrong.

  5. I think I know how you feel as I will be *celebrating* my 70th next month.
    Although 70 does seem quite ancient.......... today it is not. You can't compare our mothers and certainly not our grandmothers because it was like another culture.
    I am glad that I will most likely still be here to be able to celebrate my 70th, when it didn't seem likely 2years ago!
    Happy 70th..... Mary! Be glad and enjoy it. 80 is old....... not 70!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  6. You read my mind - and I'm only 45. I was just thinking sometime in the past few days that every part of my body seems to require too much attention to keep it working smoothly. On the other hand, that awareness is probably because I don't have enough else occupying me - working at just a job instead of a career, kids who have been coddled...

    But I accept aging. I hit menopause this year and I think for the first time in literally decades my brain get off the rollercoaster that hormones have been for me. I'm comfortable with how I look with my silver hair, and I'm finally trying to get my body back in shape. Life is good, and there really is no alternative. Hope you had a memorable day and all your birthday wishes for the year come true! : )

  7. happy birthday, mary! yes indeed, the alternative is a grim one. enjoy that truffle.

  8. happy birthday. my FIL turned 70 on april 29, and he's NOT happy about it.