The significance of any age depends entirely on how you look at it. Reaching 21, 50 and 65 celebrate important stages of our lives just as much as reaching 100. Such a lot of people these days simply keep on living a long way past what used to be thought achievable when I was a boy that it’s becoming unremarkable. I’m only 88, and I have to laugh when I meet people in their nineties who tell me how very, very, young my age seems to them.
So the first thing to get adjusted to, as you get older, is just when you think you’ve climbed to an impressive age, there’s almost always someone smiling down at you from a greater height.
Every morning I look at the sky and think about the weather and what I’ll do. Age never crosses my waking mind. There’s always a task to concentrate on. Jobs keep on building up and I have to wonder how I used to have so much extra time I was able to get dressed, eat breakfast, catch a bus and go off to work as well.
A sense of humour helps. And recently, suffering a little from arthritis, I wrote a poem I hope makes others smile as much as I did when writing it. It’s highly exaggerated – but that’s where the smile comes from:
Each morning, just before I rise, I’m delighted to observe
that the world has managed to survive another night
as it goes about its business of orbiting through space –
an achievement that has never been as simple as it sounds
for occasionally Earth has taken hits from flying objects,
on top of which these days it has to face a legion
of crazy saboteurs who’d love to blow it all to bits.
And when I’ve checked out that the globe is still intact,
I’m sorry but its problems then must take a second place
to the intricate, exhausting problem of pulling on my socks.
I have found that routine cleansing duties – such as showers,
shaving, teeth – can occupy a lot of extra time and care
as we grow old, but socks are something else. It used to be
the case that I never had to spare my feet a thought.
They ran and skipped and danced about all day at the far end
of forgetfulness. Now they have become a constant nightmare.
To roll on socks and squeeze unwilling flesh into a shoe
requires strategy, determination, ingenuity and skill.
And after all that stress you then must consciously direct
your lower limbs to shuffle down a street. The young
have no idea of the gruelling, stumbling way ahead, or how,
when waking up and sparing first thoughts to the welfare
of the planet, these will soon seem pure indulgence as you
grit your teeth once more and battle with your socks.
From Just like that, new poems by Kevin Ireland, Quentin Wilson Publishing, RRP $25.00