I’m finding myself at an age where all my peers are convinced this is as good as it gets. We’re twenty-somethings; and it’s all down hill from here. In fact – it's so down hill you might as well top yourself when you get to sixty.
This is a thought I’m struggling to fathom. Last week I went and visited my ninety year-old Grandfather who has recently been moved into a ‘facility’. My darling Grandpa, or GP as I call him, is in picture perfect health. He looks exactly the same as he did when he was seventy (except for a minor upper-middle-age spread) and he’s still as charming as pie. The problem is that his dementia has advanced to a stage where my family are no longer able to care for him. GP doesn’t understand this, as ‘he’s been looking after himself for the last one hundred years’, but he hasn’t. He’s been under the full-time supervision of my aunt for the last ten, and the part-time supervision of my father and I the five years before that. He doesn’t understand why he is in care, especially in a facility with such ‘nutters’.
This is what's fabulous: my GP is so unaware of his condition, he’s ‘looking after’ the ladies he’s living with. He’s making the most of everyday, and what he forgets... doesn’t hurt him.
I understand why some of my peers may see this as a lack of quality of life – but I think they are wrong.
How truly amazing, to be looked after everyday, and still live a life whereby you feel useful. Besides, isn’t that what we all want? To feel needed?
I work at a local pub, and have the privilege a few times a week of seating a gentleman named ‘Ted’ down for dinner. Ted has been coming to the pub for ‘over forty years’. He always tries something new on the menu.
I assumed Ted was in his sixties, maybe seventies, but I was wrong. One quiet night I had the honour of sitting with Ted as he waited for his meal. Ted is ninety-four years old and lives alone, since his wife passed. He eats out most nights of the week, and has recently taken up photography. He has entered his photos in numerous competitions, and travels the country as a competition winner. When I asked him how enjoyed living alone he told me he was thinking of moving somewhere else, because ‘sometimes, he’s sick of making his own breakfast’.
I believe life is a gift. I believe every day is as precious as the last. And if someday, for some reason we find ourselves unable to make our own breakfast, instead of feeling that it’s all over, perhaps we could celebrate the fact that someone is prepared to make it for us.
Sure, being a twenty-something is great. We have the world at our feet, decisions to make, children (or puppies) to parent. But is this really as good as it gets?
Maybe a slower, more peaceful, more reflective life is one to be yearned for, aspired to, instead of feared. Maybe this isn’t as good as it gets. Maybe, it just keeps getting better. And then you die.