(sex­a­ge­nar­ian)

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Chris Han­cock Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

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.

wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to Who re­leased the re­cent al­bum (pro­nounced “di­vide”)? What are the four ter­res­trial plan­ets? Bu­jum­bura is the cap­i­tal city of which African coun­try? Which ma­jor his­tor­i­cal event took place on De­cem­ber 7, 1941? Jac­ques Kal­lis is best known for play­ing which sport?

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