Turning 70 - a time of sadness or one of hope?
RECENTLY I heard the same question being asked of two famous people - how did they feel on turning seventy? Their replies were poles apart.
The first reply was full of resentment, bitterness and regret. Seventy was reduced to being the beginning of the end with no embrace of the achievement and no triumph at the landmark. There appeared to be a dread of the journey left to travel and a resentment of what had come to pass. It was a sad, hopeless kind of response and I couldn't help wonder if such a reply had its roots in a fear of the future or in a disappointment with the past.
The second reply could not have been more contrary. Turning 70 in this case was seen as a privilege - a privilege not afforded to everyone. There was an acceptance here of time passing, of milestones reached and of markers conquered. Yet, inherent in the reply was an anticipation of what was yet to come and a movement forward from what was now past.
I recognise well this latter approach because it is the one adopted by my own parents who themselves are in their seventies. You see, I could never describe my parents as old because frankly they are not. Only recently they remarked on how their seventies were turning out to be their best decade yet.
Of course, they are not shy about using the free travel; they like nothing better than to criss-cross the country on a train to somewhere and there isn't a mid-week hotel offer that hasn't at least been investigated. And though, as their children, we have long since grown into maturity, nevertheless we look to them to parent us still. They may be enjoying the privilege of 'old-age' but in truth the privilege is all ours.
Embracing old-age however is not just confined to my parents. I was invited to join a writer's group recently in which the majority of the members are in their sixties and seventies. I went expecting a staid, quaint and polite bi-monthly gathering. I could not have been more wrong. Their writings invariably inspire deep thought and lively discussion. Every exchange is informed, every opinion life-flavoured and every session a lesson learned. Each time I go, I leave rejuvenated and more than a little in awe. Another privilege, if you like.
Last weekend a lovely friend of mine passed away; far too young and far too soon. Despite her vibrancy, adventure, quirkiness and earthiness, she was denied growing old, remaining forever young instead. Yet had she lived until a hundred, she is one of those people who would have always stayed young. That was who she was.
Youth is a state of mind rather than a statement of time. Whether life is too short or too long, all told it's the only one we've got. And should I reach old-age, I will salute the privilege because I think it the very least I can do for those who did not.”