I see things differently now. Gone are the days when I wanted to live to be 110 and I thought illness was a weakness – not in others but in myself. All my life I’ve been lucky enough to be healthy, optimistic and forward thinking and now, while still retaining those characteristics, I see times when age has caught up with me and bending over the wrong way or carrying something too heavy for me will make me suffer.
I see the strong and capable man I married, who has always prided himself on providing well for his family and done more than enough for us, hobbling around with painful joints and being frustrated at his own inability to work as he would like. Oh, he still climbs trees, much to his doctor’s annoyance, still thinks he can take on the world but age has a way of letting us remember past glories and not current reality. He pays the price if he works hard all day, so do I, and often I don’t even try to do it any more.
But on the flip side, I love being my age. From the time when I was about 15 until about 55, I felt young, strong and invincible. Now I feel mellow and wise, and strong, but in a different way. Is it okay to call yourself wise? I’m not sure. I feel I know things now that I knew before, but now I see them differently. If that's not the accumulated wisdom of the decades I’ve lived, it’s close to it. People look at us oldies differently and if they don't, we're invisible. I refuse to be invisible and make myself heard as much as possible. Often older people are seen as weak or not knowing much. That shallow view belies what being an elder is. What some see as weakness is really acceptance. I understand a lot more now about what makes us tick and when I see others make the same mistakes I made when I was younger, I just shrug and accept it as being human. I still know all I knew when I was younger, and more, but it's not as important to me now to let everyone know it.
In addition to seeing my own and Hanno’s decline, I am also witnessing the illness of my close friend Bernadette. She's a fiery old bird and as tough as they come, but she’s been laid low with cancer and all the treatments and psychological drama that go with it. Hanno and I are walking this road with Bernadette, wherever it takes us, and whether it’s a good day or a bad one, we usually find something to have a laugh about. And out of the ashes of all that Bernadette has been through these past few months, comes hope and and belief in the future. She bought herself a puppy! Just before she was diagnosed, Bernadette’s old dog Iona died. So after a lot of thought, and a promise from Hanno and I to look after her puppy if anything happens to her, she picked up her cute little Shih Tzu a few days ago. That, my friends, is the wisdom that age brings.
Is there anything more optimistic and hopeful than a puppy? Introducing Flora McDonald.