I notice a thing or two these days, well, maybe a thing or three. Although I am young inside, my thoughts still girlish, I cannot dash as I once did, dammit. The way I could spin and jump, run and skip are now a memory. I could even catch an escaping child once, and although I accept the hilarities of growing older, there are times when the whole thing bugs the bejabers out of me. It makes me snort and stomp and then, as if snorting and stomping were big deals, I have to sit down. I don’t remember when this all began. In my short term memory I remember being able to lift a fallen husband from the floor. I could dash here and there, had to be able to dash here and there what with all the calling out of my name, the cries for help. Perhaps, since he died and with my to-do list barely covering the back of a postcard, I am allowing sedentariness. This does not sound good, not to me. I also notice that with an armful of bedding en route to the washing machine, I am very cautious as I descend stairs I used to hurtle down, arms full. I am more chary about where my feet land as if they’ve forgotten the way.
I still walk daily, move any time I feel a bit stiff from sewing. I still keep up an active and mobile life, although not to the same degree because there is no need, no name calling to react to, and more, no real requirement for that morning planning. Prioritising tasks is unnecessary now. I can take all day to one thing and sometimes I confess I do. I eke out the task, moving slowly, simply to fill in the hours. Oh, I know I am not alone in this limbo of puzzlement. Many of my age feel the same. How did old age creep up so quickly? When I do recount my own experience of this unfortunate process to others, we very quickly turn to the funny side and this is the blessing of it all. We regale each other with experiences, errors of judgement and our mild to horrific encounters with embarrassment. We throw back our heads and laugh, showing what teeth we have left to the sky. The magnifying mirror is now required to check we have our face on the right up and around, the dress not inside out, the shoes match, the car keys and sometimes the whole car are not lost. The way we might paint on eyebrows only to discover we have two sets having forgotten the job is already done. The discovery of hair in places that were hair free just last week, or so it seems. The way a younger person studies our faces just a beat too long so that we just know we are out there in public and impersonating a Belisha beacon. We write Washing Up Liquid four times on the shopping list because we remembered it four times, even if we only need it once. And the way we tell ourselves over and over again that we are not in danger of any marble loss, we are fine, this is normal.
Although I have no issues at all with the natural circle of life and death, I honestly never thought it would come to me. I have been one of those laughing at an orange face or two sets of drawn on eyebrows in my time. I have rolled my eyes from behind a dithery old woman in a shop queue whilst she counted out £30 in two pence pieces. I have scooted past the slow movers, been impatient at those who take two days to ease into a car, travelled behind that car on my hurrying way into town, swearing and flashing my lights for her or him to pull over and let me by. Old is hilarious until Old arrives with a lot more than overnight luggage.
I walk, along with my peers, through a limbo of opposites. If I decide to hate it, which I do, then I lose because this pugilist is way stronger than me and besides, hating anything never brings peace. But and but there are ways to accept whilst always seeking the funny side of this aging thingy. It is all, as it always is, up to me to choose how I respond. In my case, the red rebel fire still burns. I will still adventure, still walk in curiosity and gratitude, in humour. So what if my teeth are falling out. So what if I must needs take my time in rising my body up and out from my low slung Mini Cooper, whom I adore as she resembles my final freedom from having to accommodate, well, anyone else. So what! If I ever think wistfully of the days long gone, I quickly remind myself of how raggedy they could be, how little time there ever was for myself, how tired I could feel and how defeated by the endless demands on my time and my skills.
They say, whoever ‘they’ are, that we women should glow red and gold in the Autumn of our lives, how we should continue to walk sassy, to speak with confidence and with a truth reserved only for the over 65s, the grannies of the world, wise, hairy and albeit cautious as we descend the stairs. We should continue to shake our booty, to swing our creaky hips as best we can, to take care with our dress, checking for food stains which now invite an ‘Oh dear’ from anyone with younger eyes. I get it and I do practice this booty shaking thingy no matter how old I feel on any given day, but I shake with caution, sass with my eyes on the ground in case of trip alerts always hoping against hope that I don’t fall over, a laugh held in my mouth just in case I do.