Eighty Years Young the birthday cards reads and I think to myself that I wish it were true. Yes I do admit I am trying hard to fight off aging, like it was an insidious disease creeping up on me, but how successful I am is for others to judge.
So I celebrated my 80th birthday in full, beginning with a hot air balloon flight over the Logan River on my birthday eve; organising an orienteering event on the actual day followed by an outdoor birthday party with fellow orienteers; then a bushwalk and lunch with other friends the following day and after that afternoon tea and another birthday cake with friends in Brookland Village. And yesterday, two days after my birthday, I shared morning tea with my wife, Dorothy, and eldest son, Arnold, and his partner, Nusha. at the nursing home where Dorothy is resident; and while Arnold and Nusha were here from Canberra the family gathered for a restaurant meal in the evening at the award winning Tarragindi Thai.
Yet it hasn’t ended there because today, 29th May, I am off to bare-foot bowls at the Sunnybank Bowls Club with Toohey Forest Orienteering Club members – the celebration still rolling on implausibly into the firth fabulous day with yet another cake and more candles to blow out.
I have never had such a prolonged birthday experience with input from all quarters of my life, and now I feel guilty that I advertised the date too freely and made too much of a deal about becoming an octogenarian. One must ask, ‘Am I deserving of all the attention? Am I worthy of their congratulations? Of the words on one of the cards with a wine theme?’ It read:
Happy 80th Birthday … aged to perfection?
The card, of course, showed bottles of wine, corks and a corkscrew. It was the curved screw that most caught my attention, for I am not the tall straight and matured drop that on first glance I may appear to be. There is the arthritis in the hands, shoulder, left hip and knee; the damaged vertebra in the neck; the failing eye sight; plus the prostate cancer in the blood; let alone the moral failings which are more difficult to explain. And I know the man I see in the mirror is not the man I think I am, or still wish to be.
Most of the time I try to deny that the person I have become is more like the speaker of these two verses from a poem by my delightful cousin, Warren Cox, when he wrote:
Who you gonna call when you notice that you’re greying;
when you’re getting out of bed and the room starts swaying?
Who you gonna call when your knees start to creak
or you can’t remember where you put your teeth last week?
Who you gonna call when the anti-ageing creams
make no difference to the wrinkles and the creases and the seams?
Who you gonna call when the final bell chimes
and it’s time that you were taking stock of all your life and times?
In my memoir, To and From God, I ruled out the supreme-being theology. In it I reminisce about how I lost my Christian faith. Instead I have sought something more akin to the Epicurian philosophy which suggests that life should be enjoyed, full of engaging experience, love and learning, while, in the end, a comfortable contemplative wind down is the way to go. The ones I call in my final hour of need will be ones who understand this way of thinking. So now the party’s over I will endeavour to slink away into a quieter less obtrusive life and simply smile at the camera if by chance it is turned my way, Others will say I don’t believe you, and probably they’re right. I’m not good at taking a nap.