16 April 2012

When I'm 64

In 1967, when I was 19, I bought the Beatles LP Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I listened to that record for hours at a time, my favourites songs were A Day in the Life and She's leaving Home. Also on that record was When I'm 64. I didn't like it much and for the life of me I couldn't imagine ever being that old. Well, look at me now, a few minutes have passed by and yesterday was my 64th birthday.

When I was much younger I used to look forward to particular ages. When I was 18, I met a young man who was 24. Back then, to my teenaged sensibilities, 24 was so sophisticated and mature! I wanted to be 24 then, straight away. Imagine, wishing away six years! I'm not sure when I stopped looking forward to particular birthdays but I don't do it anymore. I look back instead. But not in melancholic way; I don't yearn for my youth nor wish I was younger. I look back to remember, the view from here is wonderful. I can see back about 60 years.

There is a lot to be thankful for at this age. The main one being that I haven't died early, because the only way you won't age, is to die. Growing older with no health problems is a very interesting exercise. There are so many things to learn about and have an interest in. We have a close and beautiful family around us, we have many friends. In fact, in these past few years, we've made many new friends. I am not a very social person, I prefer to spend time alone and at home with Hanno but friendships and an interest in our community have brought us out of our home much more than in the past. I guess we have the luxury of time now too. We've had our babies, lived through not only our teenage years but those of our children too, stood proudly by when those teenagers became men who found their partners and had their own beautiful babies. I smile to myself when I think of all those times in my younger years when I read books to them, cooked for them, became engrossed in conversations with them, showed them how to hold a chicken and carry eggs, encouraged them, was proud of them and disappointed, when I wanted them to do more ... or less, and when I just stood by and watched. Life is full of tiny increments. I didn't know that when I was younger. I thought life was supposed to be about grand gestures. But teaching those small things to children, seeing a little finger poke a seed into moist soil, being taken to those first emerging shoots with an entire hand wrapped around my finger, helping with homework and projects one night and then the next, cooking all those dinners, making sandwiches by the hundreds - all . one. at . a . time, knitting one stitch by one stitch, making batches of soap, celebrating all those birthdays - not only my own 64 but also those of my parents, my sister, my husband, my sons, and now their wives and their babies. It all happened one thing at a time and then added up to so much.

In an email I received a couple of months ago, I woman wrote to ask me how could she get to where I am - at accepting my age, the passage of time and the loss of youth. I told her, I do accept the passage of time, and I am grateful that I can because to do otherwise would mean I was dead. I also accept my age, how can I not, it is part of me. But I am much more than a number. And loss of youth? I don't see that as a loss. I see youth as a stage of life that prepares you for a more profound season. It's not the main prize, it's just part of the package. If there is a prize, I think it's being able to grow older, to have the time to enjoy life without the busyness of the younger years when marriage, family and careers are being built. We put in all the work when we were young, now we are reaping the rewards.  I'm more content now, more accepting of what is. I see beauty now where I didn't before, small things make me happy, I am grateful to be healthy enough to work in my community, it's made me better than I was. Youth? Yes, it has some wonderful benefits and I look back on my youth full of interesting and crazy people but there comes a time when growing up is the only thing left. Now is better. Time marches on, unstopped by face creams, cosmetic surgery and irrational wishes for passed youth.

Hanno and I went out yesterday to lunch to celebrate my birthday. We dined at the gorgeous Daisy's Place, just a short drive from here, which is owned by an incredible woman, Sue Joseph. I've spoken with Sue both times we've been to Daisy's, I'm very impressed by her and hope to get to know her better. Sue has turned the old Rustic Cabin into the best restaurant I've been to in many years. There is a feeling of calmness and warmth there, the staff are very obliging and the menu is superb - with fresh, organic, locally sourced food.

Hanno and I enjoyed our lunch, we had a lot to talk about, we loved the food, we took in the atmosphere in the dining room and the view into the rain forest outside. The restaurant was packed with people with whom we might have a lot in common but although we looked like everyone else, my feeling was that we were different to most of the others there. Because we hold a secret, we are living radical lives here. We've stepped away from the expected and prescribed and given ourselves the best chance of wonderful third age. We're trail blazers at 64 and 71. We have dared to live beyond 50, 60 and even 70 and we're standing up with arms wide open to welcome in all that is still ahead for us. I'm looking forward to another year full of tiny dot points along the way and I'm happy that we're walking this path you and an increasing number of others.

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