On Getting Old…

My parents always used to say to me,

“Don’t get old Vivienne…”

That was when they were my age now…

I certainly don’t feel ‘old’ enough to pass their caution on to my children but I’m guessing they did!

Their model of getting on in years was rather different to the one my Aunts and Uncles presented who didn’t seem to notice that the,

Poor old dears, they went to help at Age Concern, were years younger than they were!

Or the elderly neighbors they took on weekly shopping trips to buy groceries were their juniors.

They organized day trips across the channel to France to pick up wine and cheese,

enrolled in art classes,

sang with an a cappella group,

exercised bi-weekly down at the Town Hall,

and walked every day along the cliff paths with their dogs or up and down the narrow High Street.

They enjoyed popping in for a coffee or a hot chocolate at one of the numerous cafes to keep up with community life in their seaside town of Broadstairs, on the Island of Thanet in Kent.

They remembered loved ones who had gone before, sending cards and flowers to those left behind.

They put money on the dogs, went for a pint at the pub and played cards for charity.

They entered their eighties and nineties raring to go never missing a party or a concert, an art exhibit or a wedding, a trip abroad or a jaunt into London to catch a good show.

They may have been elderly but they didn’t seem to notice with their busy schedules, adventurous spirits and hearts of gold.

My parents were frail and cautious by comparison.  They had expended all their courage during their early years as British subjects living diplomatically abroad in what many considered to be dangerous places.

On retirement they left London and withdrew into their own world to Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent where they reluctantly showed their faces on special family occasions like landmark birthdays and wedding anniversaries with,

GettingOld1

written all over their faces!

I called sometimes, dragging them away from their gardening, knitting and pottering,

just to hear them breathe.

My calls grew more frequent as they advanced in age and I learned they’d hired a man to mow and dead-head the roses, Mum had put away her needles in favor of books and Dad  had left the routine maintenance on his car to a trusted mechanic.

They attended Saturday evening mass at a monastery in the adjoining town, bypassing the church at the end of their road to avoid the awkwardness of declining a coffee after mass with their neighbors and fellow worshippers.

They stopped visiting America after the terrorist attacks in New York.  My children were 9, 11, 13 & 15.

When we made the journey to visit them,

their bungalow wasn’t large enough to accommodate all of us so we rented our own place,

their table wasn’t large enough to seat eight together so we settled for coffee and a biscuit,

and their lawn was off limits to children so we walked with them along the cliffs and down on the beach.

Eventually they died lonely deaths,

My father in a nursing home,

(visited by Mummy every couple of weeks when my Aunts collected her.

“Who is that old man they take me to visit?” she would ask when I called to enquire how the afternoon went?)

My mother in a London hospital, (oblivious of the vigil my brother and I were keeping during her last four days.)

By the grace of God I don’t want to dwindle and fade as the years flash by.

I want to check things off my bucket list, work with horses, perform on stage, teach Yoga, work in a winery, run a mile, make new friends, show my children that I am game for anything as long as they can keep up.

I want to leave them a vibrant legacy,

that places family above all else,

and regards community as a health benefit.

That views new things as exciting,

and dreams as possible.

That serves those less fortunate,

and befriends the stranger and the outcast.

I may slow down,

My bones may begin to creek,

And my body may betray me, but my attitude will always come from knowing the sweetness is at the bottom of the pie…

The best is yet to come…

Even when I’m running late.

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2 Comments

Sue Patterson

2017-06-26 17:40:55 Reply

This is lovely. Thank you so much for writing it.
At 56 myself, I find it very inspiring. It seems I needed the nudge! ;)

    Vivienne

    2017-06-26 21:35:38 Reply

    edited it for you Sue. How are your children? Great to hear from you!

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