I know there is a time when your parents decide to tell you about the birds and the bees. But who is it that tells you about old age and death? Or does it slowly creep up and is completely ignored that one day you find yourself unable to bend at the knees, or have an unexplainable back problem that just won’t shift and the doctors informs you politely, ‘you’re getting older.’
And thus the hammer hits you in the face, and you realize what those disgruntled faces of youth were trying to tell you, as you barged your way through the clubbing crowds to the nearest nightclub sofa. I’m afraid it’s chinos, checked shirts, and walking through the Lake District for you until death do us part.
My dealings with my own mortality has been stretching back since my forties. I had decided to attend University at the late stage of 42 still convinced of my youthfulness. There I expected to find a rebellious kind like in The Young Ones. I thought I would wear dirty jeans, maybe get a nose piercing and oppose everything for the sake of it.
But at University I found a uber-young-squeaky-clean-well-heeled crowd that seemed to delight at the University building appearing like Hogwarts. I now knew I was out of my depth and in stark contrast to the others I was old. Or older than them.
My drug and booze fuelled days could no longer be contained as my dick went south, my back always moaned, and heart palpitations set in prior to falling asleep after three beers. I realized now that gravity was working against me and I had to input different fuels and ideas to counteract the energy loss. It wasn’t that I wanted to join the youth, they had passed me by, it was more engaging with life itself as fully as possible.
One must grieve on many levels not just for dearly departed loved ones but also for passages in time. I too have learned to grieve for the past and a youth that will never be again. That doesn’t mean that it is all misery as I hurtle towards the great unknown (dare I call it death?) With new awareness one can just increase the food intake with the right kind of nutrients. Of course smoking was always out for me, and I’m not really that interested in alcohol either, and regular exercise such as gym, yoga and Pilates is now a must. There is no need to be hardcore about it. The occasional dirty pizza or oil filled curry may be fine. Even the odd night out trashed with friends may be needed.
But if you are aiming for a good seventies of mental and physical agility then the fifties are the biting point. The point at which if you don’t turn it around it will be 3 hour walks to answer your door bell, out of breath when the grand kids take you for a walk. And that Helvellyn peak only to be admired from as you pass it by slowly with a zimmer frame.
There are some cool things that I really like about being older that other people might not think about. Such as not caring about fashion. My jeans are 10GBp and shirts all checked and I don’t really care about what other people think. Being forced to muse on death’s door brings an immediacy and a thrill to just being alive and a close connection to nature. To be content with ones lot as you stare out across the peaks and breathe in that fresh air. To really enjoy and savour one or two pints before heading home glad to have left the loud ones behind. To just enjoy taking things in your stride as events unfold in front of you.
These final two decades are more profound than each other. And it’s important to keep death in check as you go along. Arrange that funeral earlier as morbid as it sounds because then you would have contemplated on your own passing and the grand beautiful view of your own existence will loom wider into view. Keep up the health regime, the exercise, to study, and be informed and keep in touch.
And embrace each step as you walk gracefully towards the end. (sorry what was that word for it?)