I didn’t think too much about getting older until I hit my sixties, when two things happened. The first was that I actually started to look up; the other, a begrudging recognition of creeping memory loss.
Back in the seventies, and during the worst years of The Troubles here, I was a student at Jordanstown Polytechnic studying PE. There wasn’t much to jump for joy about that time, but a student is a student and I suppose those hazy years didn’t completely go to waste. Let’s just say that what I still remember of it existed within a plane where anything above the horizontal failed to have much meaning.
Then, a while ago, I had cause to visit the Ulster University campus again and was suddenly aware of the distinct profile of Napoleon’s nose up there on beautiful Cave Hill, above Belfast. The fact that I only just noticed was a kind of revelation and since then, I have actually started to look up more and see what I’ve been missing out on for all those years.
Now that I’m doing it, it’s become very addictive, with an occasional collision with someone in the street being the only drawback.
I’m not being altogether flippant about this, but I do think I’m starting to become increasingly forgetful. It’s quite comforting to realise that a number of people around me share similar lapses.
Names are by far the worst unless they happen to be the pheasants in my garden – Mr Big, Limpy, The Missus, Boyo etc. Their names rest easily on my tongue for some reason; when I need to access them, they arrive within seconds. Sadly, people aren’t birds and recalling new and old faces can be embarrassingly difficult.
Nowadays, I tend to walk around with a small notebook in my pocket. It’s something I encourage members of my writing class to do as it’s useful for recording overheard conversations and snippets of momentary thought. For me, it’s a means of hard copying new information before it disappears into the ether. I’m also trying to get a better handle on technology but am finding it harder and harder to keep up with its interminable assault. To be honest, I think I’ve just run out of interest or enthusiasm (or both).
For Christmas, my son generously gifted me the Merriam-Webster 365 New Words-a-Year calendar, and what a wonderful mine of information it has been (when I’ve remembered to consult it). Thus far, I’ve discovered words like dégringolade, rather appropriately meaning: “a rapid decline or deterioration”, atrabilious: “given to or marked by melancholy” or today’s offering: interrobang – ‽: “a punctuation mark designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory question”, (a word that, as a writer, you’d think that I’d have known‽) By the end of the year, I hope to have remembered at least six.
I’m definitely becoming grumpier in my oldness and am far less concerned about what other people think of me than I used to be. But that’s a kind of freedom too, I suppose. I’ve realised too that all those pesky wrinkles on my face have been well-earned and are only going to intensify with time. So, I think I’m going to embrace them if I can, until caducity (noun: “senility/ the quality of being transitory or perishable”) sets in, and then none of this will matter anyway.
This article is part of a series. Read the other posts here:
- Part 1 – getting into writing
- Part 2 – how I became a poet
- Part 3 – garden blessings
- Part 4 – cancer and me
- Part 5 – thank you for the music
- Part 6 – anyone for a carbonara?
- Part 7 – who cares?
- Part 8 – technology and me
- Part 9 – dementia and my family
- Part 10 – the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau
- Part 11 – the menopause
- Part 12 – stuff
- Part 13 – change
- Part 14 – Christmas