Growing old disgracefully
On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen
By Hendrik Groen, Penguin Random House, $37
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I think I want to be Hendrik when I grow up.
Hendrick Groen is a real person, aged 83 and a quarter, living in a care home in Amsterdam. And he’s a tough old coot who won’t go quietly into that good night.
Hendrik started the Old-but-notdead club with fellow octogenarians to live the rest of his life with careless abandon, annoying the heck out of the management. His first book, The Secret Diary, was a hoot.
Hendrik is disarming, funny, tender. His health is going and as this book opens, he’s lost the love of his ageing life, Eefje, but he remains sharp, anarchic and more than a little naughty.
It’s been a year since he maintained his diary, and there’s been a few changes. Eefje has died, some of his coconspirators have moved into the dementia wing, and there’s a couple of new faces.
He doesn’t ignore the indignities of age — incontinence, shuffling gaits, forgetfulness — but this bunch take delight in being subversive to spice up their dull days. They also want to find out if their care home is to close and stage a coup.
Yes, death is all around them and Hendrik is aware of it but he’s making the best of his time left. If nothing else, he’ll have left his mark.