I remember on the occasion of a party for my Father’s eightieth birthday, when he was asked what the best thing about being eighty was. He sagely replied that the best thing was knowing that you’d made it that far!
Which, actually, was quite an achievement considering that he’d smoked thirty untipped cigarettes a day since he was fourteen years old. He often used to joke that every time he coughed he got a fall of soot.
He went on to live until he was eighty four, outliving one or two of the younger people who were there at the time of his celebrations. Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that longevity is the be-all and end-all of life. I’ve always thought that it’s not how long you live but how well you live that matters.
October 2021 is the month of my own 80th birthday and, much as I was happy just to let it drift by, it doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment. I seem to be living in a world full of secret codes and whispers; frankly it’s like being a member of the French Resistance!
Blimey, where have those years gone? One minute you’re an insecure child, the next moment you’re an insecure older person. The days rush by so quickly that I seem to spend most of my life putting the waste bin out for collection.
Talking about waste, you younger folks should make sure that when you get to an advanced stage in your life, you aren’t pensively looking back upon a retrospective panorama of waste, instead of a bounteous field of bright flowers.
Do I feel any different? No! Do I look any different? No! Do I still have all of my marbles? Of course! Am I good at deluding myself? Yes! Cloud Cuckoo Land’s not a bad place to be sometimes.
You know how you avow that you’ll never become like your parents? Your mother says to you “Take your coat off when you’re indoors, you won’t feel the benefit when you go out”. What abject nonsense you think to yourself, you’ll never catch me saying that to my kids when I become a parent, and then one day, and in spite of yourself, out it comes. Blast!
There’s no escape, we all end up like our parents in some form or another. There’s the untainted wisdom of the young and there’s the experienced wisdom of the old - and somewhere in between there’s a kind of a carousel.
A really good example of this is the act of driving. When you’re young and just like Mr Toad of Toad Hall fame, you’re always in a hurry to get somewhere. Get out of my way, you say to yourself in a loud voice; this road belongs to me, stop dawdling!
When you enter your later years, you cannot see the point of hurrying any more. You dilly- dally to wherever you are going in spite of other drivers driving up close behind you trying to spur you on. How crazy they are you think as you deliberately slow down just to teach them a lesson. What’s your hurry? Life’s too short to rush everywhere. Precisely says the young, it’s because life’s too short that we have to rush everywhere.
So here I am approaching the end of another decade. From a biblical point of view I’m now going to be ten years over my allotted three score years and ten - I mention The Bible because it’s best to cover all eventualities. I’ve got a few aches and pains but no artificial joints and I still have a couple of friends who I went to school with, I still play in a band and I now have great-grandsons, one of whom recently asked me why my face was lumpy. Must phone my solicitor tomorrow!
I guess the best thing that the old can offer the young is continuity and, ironically, if you want to do something the time is now: There’s no point in vacillation, life’s too short – get it done! Just be happy if you can share old memories with old friends, that’s a very important asset. If you don’t have any old friends go out and make a few, it’s never too late and never stop taking chances.
I know what I’m going to do when I’m 80. I’m going to go out and buy myself a newly baked loaf. Preferably the type that’s got poppy seeds on; a bloomer I think they call it. Next I’m going to buy a half pound of butter; slice the loaf; spread each slice thickly with butter, and then slowly devour them. As far as I’m concerned, to hell with cholesterol, life is for living.
In conclusion, I’ll just leave you with this final thought. You don’t stop laughing when you get old; you get old when you stop laughing. Not a bad viewpoint really.