There was a time when I was a bit coy when someone asked me my age. Nowadays I don’t care, which I suspect is one of many changes in attitude that takes place as one gets older. I often find these days, while I still get flack for being outrageous, I can often get away with saying what I think needs saying by virtue of my age. I am posting now because later this month I become an OAP, which, until they raise the age of retirement, is 65 for men. I also get to draw a state pension and as they say: every little helps, and while not able to live a life of luxury I am better off than many and I have got a lot to be thankful for. I thought I would use this chance to reflect.
Getting old is something that happens to us all, unless we die in the interim. This coming weekend I will be attending a school reunion along with some who were in my class as a fifteen year old, most I would have met up with again only recently. I recall many of my class mates as brash and confident, looking forward to the prospect of facing the world with optimism. A number I can recall as being decent football players (though not now). Yet they like me have now reached retirement age. Some have carried their years better than others and while some of the old characteristics can still be detected, I also sense a degree of mellowing and while there have been highlights (many are now devoted grandparents) it is quite evident many have gone through the mill and have the scars to show.
One of the more salutary observations is how time flies and opportunities come and go and our life choices are often a mix of good and bad. It seems like only yesterday I was starting out on life’s journey with many of the same hopes and dreams that my class mates and now I am where I am. I got thinking how many of the sentiments in the Frank Sinatra classic “My Way” I can agree with:
“And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
“Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way”.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!
Yes, it was my way.”
A lot of this rings true, especially the bit about taking the blows and getting up to carry on doing what needs to be done, although I like to think and, without sounding sanctimonious, I have tried to do at least some of it God’s way. As for regrets, probably there have been more than I care to admit but then concerning many of the other sentiments these do resonate to varying extents. So here I am facing “the final curtain” … and sure of the promises of God, in particular one of the more obscure ones: “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” which in layman’s terms means we can put our trust in God and put past set backs and failures behind us and be confident in God there will be a good ending, whatever happens.
I suppose every old dear (for this is what I am about to become) has his/her own plans for the future and I can only speak for myself. There are two watchwords that come to mind: “make a difference” and “leave a legacy”. While the idea of taking it easy has attractions, especially as one becomes aware of slowing down by necessity and society has a tendency to put us oldies out to pasture; and while health ain’t brilliant, it is better than many, and while there are signs of my going doolally, I haven’t quite lost my marbles yet. What I am acutely aware off is there are things to do that matter and can affect others in positive ways. The challenge is in making the selection and making the best of it I can in order to make a difference. Which brings me to my second thought: while history shows oldies doing marvelous things, things happen because younger folk make it so. The trick is to encourage the next generation, to pass the baton on as it were, and make it possible for them to do. I like to think the enthusiasm of youth can be balanced by the wisdom of old age.
The thought of becoming an OAP would not that long ago have crossed by mind and now reading every week about people I know dying I am all too aware how transient and unpredictable life is and rather than face the prospect with trepidation, I am now resigned to it in a positive way. As someone close to me, who happens to be a palliative care nurse, often tells her dying patients: “take each day as it comes, make the most of and live life to the full, or at as full as you can given your circumstances”. From dust we came and to dust we return; in the midst of life we are in death; and while mourned maybe for a brief period after we die, following that we will be forgotten forever. These need not be morbid thoughts but rather a wake up call to recognize life is short and whatever has gone on in the past (best not to dwell on it and draw a line on things we cannot alter) and the uncertainties (and fears) of the future, knowing there is much we can do little about. What we must do is to make the most of the here and now, make a difference and leave a legacy.