It was my seventy seventh birthday on Tuesday. Children are often asked if they feel ‘different’ on their birthday and the answer tends to be in the negative, but rapidly advancing years are a sobering experience, and on Tuesday I did feel a bit different; there were kind family and friends around helping it to be so. It was a mixture of three emotions : nostalgic reflection, limited expectation and quiet celebration.
I have been reading about the veteran journalist Katherine Whitehorn . I knew her late sister once but that is as near as I ever got to a remarkable woman who at 80 still loves and practices her profession. At the time of her ‘Guardian’ interview on Friday, she was off to Oregon on an assignment. After many years of very happy marriage she is now a widow. She says that she came to terms with her loss by continuing to be engaged with the world.
NOSTALGIA is not something I am very good at, and I suppose I distrust it a bit – what has been can never be again.
I don’t want to live in the past. In her interview Whitehorn quotes someone called Jim Fiebig who ironically says ‘If you can look back on your life with contentment, you have one of man’s most precious gifts – a selective memory’. Well, I find the selective process isn’t that easy to control, and although there are wonderful memories, the unwanted ones often get in the way. A friend described herself the other day as contented. Perversely perhaps I am not sure that I want to be like that.
EXPECTATION has to be limited in time and ambition when you are in your 78th. year, but reaching for something more that you have, is part of being human and I am open to that. New experiences (but not too many responsibilities please ) are welcome at this address! ‘I’m looking forward to my 80’s’ Whitehorn says, I have friends and relatives in their 90’s who say it is a fine decade.
I’ll report back once I know if they are right’, she concludes.
CELEBRATION is certainly one of the pleasures of being older. So many things that one values and enjoys. Music, art, books (there is a never ending stream of good novels these days), Cinema. Theatre, the countryside, good food, the Church – fallible but still important for the faith it represents. Most of all as the years progress, my friends become increasingly important, and my wife and family precious beyond words. All the others are signs of life, but my family is life itself.