Over 50 indeed! It’s a lie! That’s what my birth certificate confirms, and my passport and my driving license. But not my death certificate, because I’m not dead yet.
When I do die, I shall be happy for my death certificate to record ‘over 50’ but that’s as far as I’m ever going to admit in the age stakes.
I’m 35 (or so) right now. I hope we can agree on that.
It’s all a matter of attitude, and I’ve got plenty of attitude on this subject as a result of a recent and portentous experience in Dublin airport.
I was striding purposefully towards the departure gate when a callow youth (all youths are callow in these circumstances) offered me a lift in a buggy. I strode on. Determinedly.
I collect rites of passage. They come at me out of the blue when least expected. This one will have to join the others in my file of ghastly realisations that Father Time doesn’t care what I think. He has his own agenda.
The first moment of truth – lie, as I prefer – was when my daughter went on the Pill. It suddenly dawned on me that I might soon, far too soon, become a grandfather. When that event did eventually occur, many years later, it had no personal shocks for me: I’d been through all that stuff already.
The next was at a college reunion when one of my contemporaries told me that he had retired. I was just beginning a new career. He might say the same but his venture into digging his garden didn’t really do it for me in my range of potential new enthusiasms.
When a young woman stood up for me on a bus, and offered me a ‘priority seat for the disabled’, I had half a mind to ask her to sit on my lap. But I’m sure that would have caused even more distress over and above the distress I was experiencing already.
Then, on being kindly offered a place to live after my financial life had fallen apart, the welcoming care worker said, “You can die here.” I’m sure that what she meant was that I could be secure in those premises for life. It seemed to me that I might have an appointment with my Maker on the following Tuesday.
And now this! I’m back on my feet, financially and socially – but obviously not physically in the eyes of the callow youth. My lumbar spine is falling apart, but I’m certainly not telling him that. I’m striding on for a long time.
Robert Lefever is a retired GP and addiction specialist, and founder of the Promis recovery centre. He lives in London.
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