Getting Old is For the Birds


Getting Old is For the Birds

Try as I may to ignore it, my hairline is definitely receding and I’m pretty much growing a beard. And though I can hardly stand to say so, clearly, I am entering the third third of my life. Old age looms - the final frontier. “Who’s that?” I have occasionally marveled to myself after catching a glimpse of someone walking by a store front, someone stopping abruptly and doing a double-take – until realizing that it is, in fact, me! Worse still, some mornings I see my mother brushing her teeth and peering back at me in the bathroom mirror – there’s her little round chin, there are her dark, sharp-eyed, beady bird eyes. Until that woman I really am suddenly catches sight of herself again, at which point she frowns and turns away, furrowing her brow and making a mental note to remember to come back and deal with those white bristly bits sprouting on said brows and chin. A mental note, of course, which she will instantly forget once she leaves the bathroom and trundles downstairs in her chenille bathrobe to plug in the kettle for tea. 

Maybe it’s because I’ll be sixty-four this summer, and because I distinctly remember listening to that classic Beatles’ song in the same room with my parents and laughing because they - and Paul McCartney – already seemed so old when they – he - sang it. Sixty-four - are you kidding me? Will you still need me, will you still feed me?? Bah – it’ll never happen. John, Paul, George and Ringo will never be that old. How can I possibly have grown that old? None of my friends are that old either – we’re all still sixteen, or twenty-five, fortyish at best - aren’t we? We can’t be qualified for the senior’s discount at the movies, can we?? And we don’t really make it our business to shop at the pharmacy on Thursdays, do we?! Other people are old. We are not old. Oh sure, maybe our minds meander a little too freely during conversations these days, swerve a little too sharply from discussing the Beatles to reminding one another of prescription re-fill dates, but that’s normal, isn’t it? 

I often endeavor to amuse young service reps, either on the phone or in person when requiring their help by first informing them “I’m old now – this technology is almost beyond me. I know you can circumvent this process and take care of the matter. I’m a real Luddite!” They laugh uncomfortably because, first of all, who talks to a stranger so openly about themselves, and secondly because they have no idea what either circumvent or Luddite mean. Old people words. But I say I’m old first so they can’t think I don’t get it. Oh, I can see it in their sweet, fresh faces - those exaggeratedly polite, patient smiles - and hear it in their youthful, energetic voices – those exaggeratedly polite, patient explanations, so often followed by just a hint of a sigh. I can see them surreptitiously making eye contact with the person next in line, that knowing look I used to make all the time when patronizing an elder whose lack of with-it-ness was both amusing and sort of sad to me and my cronies. ‘She’s old.’

It’s not all bad; I have to say that they were right when they said that wisdom comes with age – in fact, I’m so smart now I can hardly believe it. Why, just the other day, I let something stupid one of my kids said in my presence pass without a word. I can now leave a few dishes in the sink and go straight to bed, knowing that the house police will likely not be in to inspect the state of my kitchen. I even dance as though no one is watching, much to those same children’s chagrin. I remember feeling that way whenever my mum danced, and so I forgive their embarrassment and just carry on dancing. Yes sir-ee, I’m definitely sweating the small stuff less and less the older I get. Of course, that might be the result of forgetting what the small stuff is for, or even where I put it more and more often these days, but I’m trying to see how that’s just another of the benefits of aging. Who cares if the occasional apple ends up in my boot, or why I’ve no idea how it even got there? I’ll fish it out next time I wear them. And I’m pretty sure my spare keys will turn up one of these days in one pocket or another. But just to be clear, that doesn’t make me old. Does it?

Speaking of how things end up occupying spaces in our lives, and at the risk of taking one of those leisurely turns of thought here, I should also reveal that I recently bought a book on birds, a purchase I was quite pleased to make I might add. Nothing old about that, is there? Deliberating carefully in the birder’s section of my local book shop about which one to buy simply meant I’d at last become the grown up I’d always longed to be. I keep a pack of teeny tiny post-its inside of it, on which to record sightings of my new feathered friends; it lives on the table above the bag of birdseed, now also a regular purchase for me, and with which I fill my guaranteed squirrel-proof feeders – the same variety my mum favoured if I recall correctly. I may even ask one of my kids to get me binoculars for my upcoming birthday – sixty-four, remember? 

When visitors happen upon the birding table in its little corner by my dining room window, I try to keep things light and witty when they ask about my new-found hobby, laughing with them as they laugh at me – another terribly important lesson I’ve finally learned in my ripe old age. There really are so many benefits one discovers in this third era – and it would be really great if only I could keep track of them all in my head, now slowly becoming covered with hair as snowy white as my mother’s used to be. Oh – and have I told you how much my mum loved birds?


Sarah Christie Prospero

Sarah Christie Prospero is a happily retired English teacher from Toronto, now living in Almonte and writing mostly memoir, taking classes at Carleton U with Prof. Anna Rumin. Sarah’s work has been published in the Globe and Mail’s First Person, on CBC’s Sunday Edition, in the on- line magazine Story Quilt, and now, hopefully, in Ariel Chart.


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