Actually, this realisation came to me rather sharply when I celebrated my second 60th birthday (the official one) to mark reaching the halfway point in my life and I invited everyone I knew to a garden party. In the days before the party, I received constant telephone calls – ‘can we park outside the door? I’ve just had my hips replaced’, ‘is there wheelchair access?’, ‘is it very far to walk? I’m not supposed to overload my pacemaker’, etc. In fact, if I stop to think about it, I am reminded almost every day of how the world around me seems to be ageing. As you may know, one of the things I do is to drive elderly people to hospital. When I was younger, I always thought in terms of fit young persons helping doddery old persons. The reality is somewhat different – it’s those that can still walk assisting those that can’t.
Anyway, over Christmas, all the hospital visits were cancelled, because of the snow. I have no idea whether that has caused medical difficulties; that’s not my side of the work, but I always thought that what I did was a fairly necessary requirement. It made me think how especially difficult it must be for those who can’t get out when they need to. The thought was reinforced a couple of days before Christmas when I was asked to take someone to Tescos, rather than the Royal Surrey Hospital. All the roads had been cleared of snow and ice by then, but, although the man I picked up lived only a couple of hundred yards from Tescos, there was no way he could walk on the uncleared pavements with his walker and get back with a bag of groceries. I had of course been walking to the shops and back throughout the snow, thinking only what a trudge it was.
So I went to visit an old friend of mine, who is now in a home. He came to that party too in fact and told me then, in his characteristic dry manner, ‘please forgive me if I forget who you are later, my short term memory is shot.’ In the relatively short time between then and now, his memory has gone completely, he has lost the use of his voice (or forgotten how to speak; I’m not sure how the dementia works) and is now bed-ridden and unable to move. I feel very guilty that I haven’t been to see him before, but somehow it wasn’t possible. He used to record obscure music for me in the days of cassette tapes and I took some along hopefully in case it stirred something in him. It did seem to make him prick up his ears and stare at me, but who knows. Very sad.
Then, at my New Year’s Eve party, I discovered that the younger brother of a very good friend of mine has had a stroke and a subsequent heart attack, leaving him semi-comatose.I realise I’m at that age when these things will happen around me more and more often. I have lost 2 of my regular bridge friends recently, not to mention the passing of ageless icons like Boney M or Leslie Nielson. But nonetheless I am reminded to get on and do all those things on my bucket list - a bit like (but not the same as) Austin Powers. So that's my New Year's resolution. Does it still count if you tell people about it? Or is that wishbones?