Life’s a journey, as they say in the classics. Remember when Christmas never came and the church service lasted forever?
A clever soul once explained to me that a standard life of (then) 75 years could be broken up into segments. The first 25 years take 40, the next 25 are true to form at 25, but the final 25 take a mere 10.
“So don’t waste those final years,” was his sage advice. “You’re a long time dead.”
My old mate Vern is 93 and past his use-by date. “It’s a bastard getting old” is his oft-repeated lament. His old pleasures — fossicking in the bush like a contented mallee fowl, duck shooting, camping and fishing — have been severely restricted by life in a high-dependency aged-care facility.
One of his few remaining pleasures includes tottering out to my 97-year-old T Ford buckboard and enjoying the wind in his face, or to sit and have a red wine or a beer and chuckle over the old campfire days.
Another friend, Howard, is 92. Awarded a wartime Distinguished Flying Cross, he still flies a recreational aircraft and manages a com- puter and iPhone. This desire to stay abreast of modern living keeps him well away from the grave. An active and abstemious lifestyle, plus genetics, probably helps too.
He flew Lancaster bombers during World War II. He would have known as much about that aeroplane as the designer. Howard’s like that: smart. Formal schooling may have ceased at age 15, but he made full use of the University of Hard Knocks in the ensuing years.
As I approach my mid-70s, I find myself thinking more about what used to be — and about what may be around life’s corner. I’ve always been pretty fit and still walk a great deal. My wife and I backpacked 800km on the Camino Trail through Spain a couple of years ago. We weren’t the only oldies on the trail: there was 79-year-old Roberte, a Frenchman who’d undertaken the trek 11 times in memory of his wife; Dave was an 80-year-old 10-pound Pom; and then there was the 87-year-old Italian retired heart specialist and his wife who had walked the Camino several times.
The realisation that I’m at the old fogey stage of life is quite daunting.
Fortunately, I can still round up one or three friends for the occasional swag camp.
Recent rains in far northern South Australia have filled the billabongs and creeks, and the yabbies will soon be out of their holes waiting for a couple of us to pop our nets in.
A little fire, a beer or wine, some fresh bread and a bucket of yabbies. Add some nonsense yarning. What could be better?
Why is life so short?
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