Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Friday, 20 November 2015

Being Old

My son, Kitta worked in the States at a University for one year, some twenty-five years ago. He is a Mathematician (for his sins) and told me this story. He had the chance to talk to a distinguished Hungarian Mathematician, Paul Erdos, at a conference in Kansas.  Erdos was an old man by then and told Kitta, ' Being old is terrible, all sorts of aches and pains. I hope you get the chance.' Erdos didn't live many years after that.

   I suppose I should be grateful for the chance to have the aches and the pains, especially when so many young people die without the time to achieve their aspirations. All those people in Paris and Beirut and Northern Nigeria, Mali, and... What a sad symptom of our times! 

   So, I mustn't grumble about that shoulder, which is reminding me that I overdid the gardening yesterday. Wielding that power saw with abandon - it was fun. Since my sight is not entirely trustworthy about small spaces, I think I may have chopped off a perfectly healthy Peiris, just coming into flower. Not unusual for me. That Peiris was too near a huge bush that had outlived its decorative usefulness and needed to be dispatched.

   When I take a plate off the shelf I knock the sides on the wood and the plate often gets chipped. When I get up in the night for a trip to the bathroom, I sway and have to hang on to the wall or bed. And when I go out in the night, I have to hold on to someone because the dark makes it all much worse and I am totally disoriented. Still, I tell myself, I am functional - almost.

  Then there is the knee, which refuses to do its job without protest; the stomach, which has its own idiosyncrasies; the wrist which cannot hold up my favourite hardback in bed. So I end up buying Wolf Hall, paperback and e book. Ditto with Beevor and his delightful book on the final retreat of the Germans in Ardennes, in WW2.
   However, the most irritating aspect of ageing is that you cannot predict the future even a year ahead. I want to prepare for dilapidation, but what shape will that take? Shall I fall once every year and break bones? Shall I irritate my family by making them repeat everything they say to me twice over? Never mind, they say when they have reached the end of their affectionate tether. But now I want to know what they said, and they have moved on to other thoughts, leaving me hanging. 

    I am angry for nothing and impatient for trivia.  This is not without cause. I lack confidence to jump into my Polo and drive where I wish. In the eighties, I was forever driving all over East Anglia and Suffolk. I would drive to Southwold to pick my daughter from her boarding school four times a term. I had to go to empty Ely for examiners' meetings for the C S E exams.. On Thursday evenings I went straight from Wickford, where I taught, to Chelmsford. I attended a course on Computer programming, taught by Brian Jackson, he of the nimble fingers. What an accomplished card-shuffler he was! We had computers, larger than my bedroom and punched cards for each command of a programme. So, in addition to being uncertain about the commands themselves, we also punched them to oblivion. The programmes never worked. Did I hear a long sigh when Jackson looked at my pack of cards?

   I would return home to Laindon at ten in the night weary and diminished from my battles with the machine. I could not even see the purpose of the project. No sat nav then or mobile phone. The country road was without street lights and I drove on a wing and a prayer.

   It is the dependency and the lack of control that is unpalatable about old age. How can the young understand that. If you are thirty years old, you can't know how forty feels. If forty, sixty is another world. And at sixty eighty is the outer space.

   And I still haven't been to China. Or written my memoirs.

1 comment:

  1. You ARE writing memoirs! I LOVE reading your blogs! Your writing is so fresh, colorful, and metophoric! And by the way...I have very similar symptoms of Old Age here in my near mid-50s!