Robert Louis Stevenson said “extreme busyness is a symptom of deficient vitality.” I recognised myself immediately, the original “blue-arsed fly,” always on the move, always up to something, always having four or five projects on the go.
And then old age comes along. I looked at my watch twenty minutes ago and it read 1990 and when I looked again it was 2013. What the hell happened to all that time in between? Was I not paying attention? Or I was so busy that I forgot to savour the good bits at a more leisurely pace.
It’s hard to know where to peg Old Age, but I think 70 is a good place to start for me, because I‘m finding what friends say on meeting me, is amusing.
I’m not being a cynic. It’s just that between that the ages of 60 to 70, friends say “you‘re looking well,” when you know that you are, in fact, so decrepit that you look like your Passport photograph.
When you reach 70, your reluctance to take the simple compliment of ”you look well” with any bit of grace, puts pressure on your friends to go to the well again, in an attempt to find something to say to your ravaged visage, that sounds optimistic and positive. “Well you may not think you’re looking well, but I think you’re looking better than the last time I saw you.”
My first thought, which I keep to myself is, if I look like that to them now, what kind of a scarecrow will I have to be before they get bogged down in the hoary old “you’re great for a man of your age,” whatever that means!
My great friend Brush Sheils has refined a proper attitude to ageing. He says “I’m too old to die young and I’m too young to join Status Quo.” The tone of that is about right and where and how you pitch your old age is very important.
For best results, before you leave the bathroom in the morning, you need to un-whine your voice, followed by a quick last check for nose and ear hair. Too much tuftiness and your head starts to resemble a burst mattress.
At this same time, you have to decide how you want the outside world to perceive you. Are you going to behave like a blue-arsed fly, or are you someone who can’t wait to retire so you can play golf everyday, or go to the allotment and grow scallions.
I have no personal experience of anticipating retirement, principally because I have never had anything to retire from except direct competition with my peers in the world of arts. To avoid talk of retirement, it’s good to have a project or two in the works so that when asked, you can safely answer, ”oh I have couple of things on the boil,” without admitting that the “couple of things” on the boil are two eggs, with which you plan to make a sandwich at lunchtime.
Dementia is the bogeyman of old age. The definition of Irish Alzheimer’s Disease, is that you forget everything except “the grudge.” The very use of the word “dementia” is enough to churn your stomach and you are immediately grateful that the internet has brought you many genealogical sites that can reveal to you the good news that none of your aunties and uncles have shown any dementia in the family for the past 2000 years.
At 70 there are also lots of decisions to be made that are novel. On the matter of sex, for instance, is old age sex considered inappropriate and gross, by society, or do you just have to concentrate on making physical rather than mental decisions.
Wife: “D’ye want to run upstairs and fool around?”
Husband: We’re going to have to make a decision here.”
lf confidence hasn’t arrived by age 70, I think you might as well throw your hat at it. You’re not likely to improve. If, on the other hand, you have been diffident all your adult life, this might be the time to abandon your diffidence completely and drift into total apathy. Lie back and let it happen. As long as your health holds out and you don’t regret the arthritis in that busted knee you got playing for Monkstown Thirds back in 1984, there’s nothing to stop you fading away quietly.
The Social Club in RTE is called The Departure Lounge. It has been the venue of choice for many retirement parties. Over the years, I have seen lots of comrades say goodbye and retire. I never enjoyed any of those parties because the threat of idleness has always freaked me out and I get the shivers when I see the traditional retirement gift being bestowed on the retiree.
Who needs a clock to remind you that your biblical three score and ten has been reached and you’ve turned for home!Article Written by Shay Healy First Published in The Irish Daily Mail, Saturday 6th July 2013 Shay Healy’s latest eBook ‘The Danny Boy Triangle’ is Out Now on Kindle 2.99 Free Kindle Reader – download app