Wednesday, 26 December 2012


You’ll All Be Old One Day!

I find it hard to believe I’m in my 70th year. But my birth certificate confirms I was born on 6 October 1943.

   I don’t feel like I’m that old, although I suspect I must look it. The first sign of encroaching old age (apart from the usual tell-tale signs of galloping grey rapidly thinning hair) happened a few years ago when, as usual, I was going to work by tram and a 20-something person proffered her seat. I quickly glanced around me, naturally thinking her offer was for someone in need such as, a heavily pregnant mother-to-be, or an ancient retiree, or perhaps someone with a disability. But no, the offer was made to ME! Of course, I indignantly replied, “No, thank you!” precariously clinging onto one of those heavy plastic anchor-shaped devices dangling down from the roof as the tram lurched and swayed when it hit one of those ridiculous curves in the tramline in St Kilda Road opposite the Arts Centre in Melbourne.

   I don’t feel I’m nearly 70 – more like, say, my late 30s or early 40s.  Maybe this is a psychological defence people of a mature age put up as a denial of the obvious? My wife’s late grandmother was a classic in this regard. At the age of 92, my wife took her to see her doctor about her failing eyesight. She too, became quite agitated when he suggested her problem was caused by her advanced years. “Old! What do you mean old? I’m not old!” You could understand her point of view though, because she was still driving her car, cooking her own meals, doing the housework and tending her small garden at the time.

   The words a work colleague, Les Nielsen, said to me 51 years ago still ring in my years. “You’ll be old one day!” he said, in response to my calling him an “old bathplug” or something similar, as we played our usual jousting game one morning at Bushells (a tea and coffee company located at Circular Quay in Sydney) where I was working as a newly-appointed  executive trainee and he was a soon-to-be-retired long-standing employee. I retorted with something stupid like, “I’ll never be as old as you!”

Why is it, I wonder, I can still clearly remember that exchange which occurred in 1961, when virtually anything else that happened that year has passed completely from my memory? Anyway, his words  stuck in my conscious memory and my pathetic reply has remained embedded in my conscience. He was right on the money – age doesn’t discriminate, it gets everyone eventually. Even smart-ass 18 year-olds who think they know it all and believe they’re bullet-proof as well.

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