I’ve been thinking about old age, and that we should be
trained in how to do it.   So much
training is given in how to do practically everything, yet it seems to me we
still arrive at the great changes in life more or less unprepared.

Few people, embarking on marriage, full of hope and good
intentions and anxious to enter into matrimony (even though they are warned in
the marriage service that it is an estate not to be entered into lightly),
actually have any idea of what is involved.
A good marriage is a bulwark
against misfortune, and a great source of strength and happiness, yet it nearly
always has to be paid for by some costly sacrifice somewhere along the way.    The participants have in our culture
generally chosen of their own free will, but they do not know why they have
made that choice.    The general bargain
(society’s expectations of marriage) is made;
a private bargain is agreed (eg one will work, one will raise the
children), but often a secret bargain is also struck, and what that is may not
be apparent in the beginning even to the bride and groom.

Few couples, gazing with delight into the cradle holding
their first born, and anticipating the joy that a child does indeed bring, have
a realistic grasp of the enormous cost that will be incurred.    The father may have to work for years of
unremitting toil to keep it warm, fed and educated.   The mother may spend her best years of
strength and beauty in the drudgery of its physical care.    In the end, the better the job is done, the
more carelessly the child leaves you without a backwards glance, and suddenly,
in your parental role, you are redundant.
You have to give up being the hand that rocks the cradle, or guides the
tiller, and watch from the rocky shoreline as your child launches their frail
craft on the dangerous waters of life alone;
and probably you have to provision the boat, and wave it off cheerfully,
stifling your anxieties.   Did you listen
to your parents’ advice?   No, you
didn’t.   You made your own mistakes and
if you are ever to be mature it is necessary that you do so.

Once your children have offspring of their own, they
become slightly more   sympathetic as they realise the enormity of
the undertaking, and that the best you can hope for is to be a good enough

As for old age, it snakes up on you stealthily.   I watched a recent programme on Prince
Phillip at 90 and had great sympathy for him.
Even though inhabiting a frail, 90 years old body, he still seemed the
same vital and exciting man the Queen had fallen in love with;  and certainly you could still see that in his
day he must have been one of the handsomest men to walk the planet.

Recently I chanced across a poem entitled, Beautiful Old
Age, by D H Lawrence (though one must point out that he himself died at 45 and
therefore had no personal experience).
I leave you with  the last few

And a girl should say

It must be wonderful to live and grow old.

Look at my mother, how rich and still she is.

And a young man should think, By Jove,

My father has faced all weathers, but it’s been a life!

About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

4 Responses to ON GROWING OLD

  1. Carolyn Hulatt says:

    Yeah, but think how very wise we both are having made all those mistakes! There are advantages to be be enjoyed at every age. I really hope my hair doesn’t drop out with exreme agedness (assuming that I get that wrinkly), but then again it wouldn’t need all the current & constant washing and titivating now would it!
    Imagine being twenty again, with the future the great unknown and all of life’s adventures ahead, kind of exciting I suppose, at least it was at the time, but if given the chance to go back I’d opt for now. As the saying goes, ‘now is where it’s at!’ Now who’s saying was that?….

    • adhocannie says:

      Yes, I agree, but as someone said, youth is wasted on the young… but then if you had known then what you know now, you wouldn’t take the actions that make you be you … you know what I mean!

  2. Sheena Murphy says:

    The other morning upon leaving the house I glanced in the mirror and thought, “I don’t look too bad today!” Having endured the baby’s first year and very little sleep, I usually look drawn and haggard. But on this day, I looked soft and dewy. Then I leaned in closer and saw to my horror a light film of dust on the mirror, the cause of my soft and dewy appearance. Three strikes in one blow: bad housekeeper, middle-aged eyes, drawn and haggard! Age does sneak up on one.

    • adhocannie says:

      Ah. Yes when (invariably people older than myself) say, you don’t have many wrinkles, I generally recommend they visit an optician! Anyway, what does the odd wrinkle matter when you have a lovely daughter?

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