THREESCORE YEARS AND TEN
It hit me like a ton of bricks!
The realisation that in one month’s time I will actually be 70 years old.
Sure, I was aware I was in my 70th year – my wife had booked a private function room in our favourite restaurant months ago for a birthday celebration. My two grown-up children, Hannah and Harvey, had confirmed they would be flying down from Brisbane to Melbourne with their partners to join in the festivities. Three of our grandchildren (on my wife’s side) together with their parents will be there, as well as a few other people. But those arrangements were made for an event so far into the future, it wasn’t worth thinking about.
However, a few days ago the penny dropped big-time! In just one month’s time I will actually be …………….!
I, who still think I’m occupying a 40 year-old body; even though my eyesight is no longer anything like 20/20; even though I’m getting progressively deafer; even though I find it hard to bend down and tie up my shoelaces; even though after shuffling as fast as I can to catch a tram before it pulls away I need several minutes to get my breath back; even though it takes two days for the pain and stiffness to subside from my limbs and joints after kicking the football with my grandson, Luca – I’ve been fiercely resisting the notion that I’m getting old.
I didn’t think I was old a year ago when I turned 69, so what’s different about turning 70?
I suspect it could be the Bible’s fault – well at least the fault of the King James version that introduced the old English term “threescore years and ten”. Way back then the number 20 was referred to as one “score”, therefore threescore was 60. Add on 10 and you’ve got 70.
Psalm 90 is said to be written by Moses. It states, among other things, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten”, not implying that come the age of 70 you’re scheduled to shuffle off your mortal coil (to paraphrase Bill Shakespeare), because Moses goes on to say, “and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Not exactly sure what Moses was on about here, except it’s reasonably clear that 70 years of age isn’t necessarily “exit stage right” time and our lives may be stretched out to “fourscore” years, or 80 years.
I think my mother, who is 92 years old, and her elderly friends in an aged care centre would politely disagree with Moses on that “score” as well, so to speak.
However, I wonder if my resistance to the notion of turning 70 is based on an age-old misunderstanding that threescore and ten years is our usual allotted lifespan on the planet? Maybe at a deep, subliminal level in my mind this old Biblical-derived distortion prevails. Add to this everyone’s primal fear of death - even if we consciously deny it – maybe that’s where some of my resistance to the notion of turning 70 is coming from?
However, I’m sure there’s more to my resistance than that.
Anyway, Moses goes on to say, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” I have to say I’m no biblical scholar, so please don’t bombard me with accusations of heresy if you think I’m on the wrong track. But my take on this is – Given the finite number of days in our respective lifetimes, we should use them wisely to ensure we leave a positive legacy after we die.
This is something that has often been to the forefront of my thoughts for several years now. However, even more so lately. What legacy will I leave behind after I die?
An atheist friend of mine once told me that when you die, your only legacy is your children – part of you lives in them. Neat, but somehow not entirely convincing.
No, I’d like to think my legacy could be a lasting, positive influence on my children, my grandchildren and on others as well, through my thoughts, deeds and actions. Specifically, by demonstrating kindness, non-judgment, tolerance and understanding of others – maybe this will help them lead a happier and more peaceful life and inspire others by their example as well.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, because I’m a long way short of consistently demonstrating these admirable qualities. So, there’s much for me to do before I can aspire to this level of wisdom and behave accordingly.
Come to think of it, it’s unlikely to happen between now and my 70th birthday and, indeed, the process – given my inherent and hard-wired resistance to attitudinal change and self-improvement – might take years, even decades.
So watch this space. It seems likely I’m doomed to live a very long life!