On being ancient
My old age came a surprise to me. One week I was galloping up to London most Fridays to my partner in Greenwich, thence on to an event or two with intermittent parties. Then a few years ago I was diagnosed with incurable cancer of the lung and given seven months to live. I decided not to take the option of chemo treatment or dying. Instead, changed my diet, began juicing, continued with the Cranio Sacral treatment I had been having for some time. I did not change my lifestyle, though I did tell friends. Most told me about their own brushes with the dread disease – also the deaths of course.
Then I met Yae who also had a tumour and had decided against the treatment offered by the doctors. she was inspirational, her philosophy unique. She practised Shiatsu & I visited her in Sevenoaks weekly and she visited me for my treatments. Her philosophy was at least as important to me as the treatments and I began to feel unworried about my tumour who I called Tubby, I talked to him regularly, I still do. He has graciously remained the same size. I rarely thought about cancer. I changed my attitude to death, began to regard it as another event of life, I was not unhappy with my life, I was having fun and saw no reason to stop.I didn’t want to become a ‘patient’ in spite of being sent a nice nurse from a charity. She disappeared after a few months when I didn’t obediently deteriorate .
Then my hands swelled up and woke me in the night, weeping with pain, diagnosed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. No big deal but I live alone all week and was amazed and frustrated by being unable to drive or text, opening cans, windows, and using my computer was nearly impossible. My fingers had small pillows fat enough to cover two keys at a time on all devices. Tablets, all tucked snugly in metal trays, and had to be poked out with a pointed knife requiring reading glasses and a great deal of time. All an aggravation but alarming as I thought it was cancer related. I went to see my doctor. She sympathised but didn’t know what it was. Forunately a friend had identical symptoms, and I realised it was Carpel Tunne Syndrome – no big deal. I went for tests . I had an operation on one hand, no perceptible improvement. I must say here that my doctor has always been supportive although at the back of her mind lurked the idea that being a ‘woman of my age’ I have a responsibility to become a daytime TV watching turnip type person who has no need of stimulation at all. She feels, perhaps that enjoying life is dangerous after a certain age. My lovely nurse indulges me as if I was a precocious child but does at least have a nice ribald sense of humour. The helpers, who come to fix things, coo at me in melodious tones call me ‘dear’ a lot. They tell me that most old people expect and like this approach. I respond with my dockers vocabulary, worth it for the looks on their faces, but I regret it, feel ungrateful.
Gratitude is vital when you are old, fine but in return I want respect. I don’t know any of these compliant old people; most of my friends are as cantankerous as me. There seems to be a kind of conspiracy to infantilise us, I expect it is more comfortable that way. I find this approach annoying and I will try never to succumb to a nice old lady mode, a quiet life is not something I have ever aspired to and I don’t think I will start now.
On re-reading this I find it illustrates both my non- acceptance of my age & a feeling that my way is the only way, it is not. It is the only way for me. What I am against is the assumption that we ancients should change into what is to convenient to be the correct mode for our age. I resent being expected to adopt this stereotype foisted upon us ancients. We are all unique, please don’t underestimate us. WE BITE!
Don’t assume we become a different species. Our needs are not all similar any more than are we, any more than all teenagers are the same, or any other age group. besides which ‘old’ covers a great swathe of people of all kinds. I do not relish being told that I am in better shape than most eighty year olds. This is irrelevant!