It happened to me, twice in 36 hours. The unexpected came hurtling out of the blue like bolts of lightning, mercilessly burying themselves deep in my brain, to the point I may never recover. If you didn’t know what age you were, what age would you be? It’s an interesting question. Most people are looking out at the world, invariably through eyes that feel younger than our ageing bodies. It’s not unusual to hear men and women in their fifties and sixties, saying how they still feel like a young girl, or a young boy.
For as long as I can remember, I have been looking out through the eyes of a dynamically mature twenty nine year old. I see myself as slightly exotic, because I have a reputation for not wearing suits, going to Mass or voting Sinn Fein. I reckon these things help me stay young.
Last year, in this column, I recounted how fresh from a gig with my songwriter buddy, Don Mescall, we arrived in Tramore at the hotel we were booked into, only to find ourselves in the middle of a full-blown Hallowe’en Fancy Dress party. I was wearing my gigging gear of tight jeans, gaudy t-shirt and leather jacket. Through the mayhem of costumed youngsters at play, I suddenly noticed Wonder Woman approaching. “Who are you supposed to be dressed up as?” she asked me enthusiastically.” And then as the penny dropped, she sheepishly said, “oh!…you’re not in fancy dress, are you !”
Wonder Woman beat a graceful retreat, without realising she had done me a huge favour. Her mistake in assuming me to be cool enough to be a natural participant at that party, meant that in her eyes, I was still a player. That was good for my “burn out rather than rust” rock ‘n roll ego.
Because I’ve been on television a lot over the past fifty years, I have seen myself from almost every conceivable angle. Consequently I have some sense of how I look to other people and being seventy now, I have accepted that my face is ravaged and lined with the cruel crevasses that old age dishes out so freely. But I try, in my plumage and demeanour, to not look like a seventy year old man and in that respect, everything was going fine until approx. 9.27 last Tuesday morning. That’s when the first bolt of lightning struck home without warning.
As I boarded the standing-room only Dart, at Sandymount, on my way to a funeral in Raheny, a young, pretty girl of about 18 stood up and offered me her seat!
Holy Jaysus! How about that for a good kick in the goolies, so early in the morning. It never occurred to her that she had unwittingly emasculated me and pricked the bubble of my grandiose vanity. I could see the word “rust” reflected in her eyes and at that moment, I was reminded of the great aphorism of my friend, Brush Shiels. “I’m too old to die young…and too young to join Status Quo.”
So there I was, snookered by a damsel. A chuckle bubbled up inside me, but I stopped it before it emerged. I felt obliged to respond as an old geezer, to dignify the young girl’s thoughtfulness. Anyway, laughing would only have marked me out as possibly being a bit mental as well, so I stayed schtum.
One day and two funerals later, (I kid you not), I found myself on the Dart again, this time heading for Booterstown. In the pissings of rain I hiked up the slope to Booterstown Church, but the pins were not so good, so it was slow progress.
Mass had started without me and to my dismay it was standing room only at the back of the church. This was not what I needed and scanning the throng of mourners, I couldn’t spot a gap I could push through, to allow me bully my way into a pew.
Instead, stoic as ever, I made the best of it by putting all my weight on my walking stick and doing my best balancing act. But the contortions of my sagging body must have been more evident than I was conscious of, because that’s when the second lightning bolt shot home.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned to see a pleasant looking woman offering me her seat in a three-seater pew, right at the back of the church. Kissing and hugging would have been inappropriate in a church, especially in the middle of a funeral mass, so, instead, I offered her a broad smile and a nod of gratitude.
It felt like fate was giving me a second opinion, whether I wanted it or not. I could hear the chant growing in my head ,” geezer-geezer-geezer.” And now I am perplexed as to how I should deal with this new reality. I suppose I have two choices really, both pretty obvious. I can stop going to funerals. Or I can stop getting the Dart.Article Written by Shay Healy First Published in The Irish Daily Mail, Saturday 19th Oct 2013 Shay Healy’s latest eBook ‘The Danny Boy Triangle’ is Out Now on Kindle 2.99 Free Kindle Reader – download app