When I was growing up, I never entertained the prospect of growing old. Like all good grandparents, mine were good for a hug but more important as a wonderful source of acquiring just about any sugar-filled treat. Ice cream, chocolate, sweet drinks, all procured with a flutter of feigned cuteness. I never thought I’d be just like them one day. The fact is that I’ve felt like I was on the right side of youth for most of my life, but the feeling of getting closer to retirement has arrived with incredible rapidity and, I must say, without much grace. This year, as 60 approaches, I have begun to contemplate the milestone with trepidation. A close friend urged me to remove my birthday details from Facebook; it was a dead giveaway, she said, and anyway, “don’t most people lie about their age?”
Next was the discussion about some kind of momentous celebration to mark my entry into the category politely labelled “elderly”. My 17year-old daughter suggested we throw a fancy dress combined 18th/60th party. That was until we held our first guest list planning discussion, which ended with half of the attendees being her mates and the other half her mates’ parents. Were any of my close friends invited? Aside from the small matter of party music selection, ranging from Selena Gomez and Melanie Martinez to the Rolling Stones’ greatest hits.
There have also been some discussions about gifts. This began to worry me as I recall vividly the morning of my 50th birthday, waking up to unwrap a finely carved wooden walking stick. I initially thought I had scored a new golf putter. This was closely followed by a set of false teeth, before I was blindfolded and escorted by the kids out on to our driveway for the “big present”, only to find a tiny Matchbox toy Ferrari.
So the prospect of receiving the gift I’ve always dreamed of for the midlife crisis is remote. I’ve also noticed in the past few years that my body hasn’t been something to crow about. Most days I wake up to some form of ache or pain. Indeed it is much easier to pull a hamstring rolling out of bed than to dredge up memories of streaking down the footy field
As the dreaded birthday approaches the cliches seem to be flowing thick and fast: “You’re only as old as you feel”, “Age is a state of mind”. I feel like I’m being congratulated for some kind of embarrassing defect.
The most positive feeling is knowing a tad more about life than the younger generations. It takes great restraint to bite my tongue when I hear my teenage daughters claim the bigger their tattoo, the cooler they will be. A mate of equivalent vintage recently asked, what would I rather have: a $10 million gift or turn back the clock by 20 years? I didn’t hesitate to choose, but hey, after all it’s only a number.
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