It’s a strange feeling. My mind still plays tricks on me.
“Go on, the night’s still young,” it urges. “It’s only just gone midnight. Remember that time we stayed up til morning…”
“Twelve hour gaming session? No problems! We’ve done forty-eight straight before. This is a piece of cake.”
Hmmm. Yes. That was over twenty years ago, fuelled by fizzy drinks, caffeine and dark chocolate.
My brain chugs away. Endlessly creating scenarios, considering options, working on puzzles – just as it did in my twenties. It’s like it’s stuck in a time warp refusing to grow up. I feel like a fraud, pretending to be adult.
But lately my body has been complaining and is showing signs of rebellion. It’s not the grey hair (which I think is cool and is so much easier to dye purple!). It’s not the noisy knees or the arthritis in the finger. It’s not the hot flushes, the sunspot I found on my hand nor the need to sleep for a week after an extremely late night (or worse, very early morning).
It’s experiencing the death of friends, family. It is the systematic (and increasing) erosion of the things and people who influenced my childhood and adolescence and made me who I am today.
At first it was a trickle.
Those to be expected: My grandmother died on my first honeymoon (was that an omen?). It felt as if someone had wrenched out my heart. She was my friend and my guide. I still think of her often.
The year I turned forty: My best friend, university buddy and co-conspirator, Jillian, died unexpectedly. She was a year younger than me. We had both moved away from Queensland for work, both had married university sweethearts (and subsequently divorced). We had been two peas in a pod.
When I look back, this is when the seeds were first sewn. I just hadn’t realised it yet. Forty didn’t bother me. Losing my friends did. I still haven’t deleted Jillian from my email account. Perhaps I don’t want to admit we are mortal?
I still think of grandma and Jillian. Often.
I managed to skate through my forties relatively unscathed. A new husband. A daughter. A stable job. What more could I ask for?
Cancer was the next villain, taking the lives of dear friends such as Ian, Sandy and, more recently, Steve. Celebrities such as Elizabeth Sladen (one of my favourite Doctor Who companions) and Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier) passed away.
The Big Five-O loomed. A new career. A new life. And the second round of losses began: Rik Mayall, Patrick McNee (Steed from The Avengers), Robin Williams, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lee, Omar Sharif, Yvonne Craig (the original Batgirl), Geraldine McEwan (Miss Marple), Alan Rickman, David Bowie, and now Prince.
I think the hardest for me were Terry Pratchett – having personally met and had dinner with him – and David Bowie who created music to fill every decade of my life. What will I do without his genius?
Some lived to a grand age, some taken too early. I’m starting to understand how my grandmother felt when she kept a list of those who died. And here I am starting my own.
Is this what it feels like to grow old?
Then I shall rebel, as Jenny Joseph suggested in her poem, Warning (aka. When I grow old). But I already hoard pens and pencils (and notebooks). I’m not a fan of spitting. I don’t drink. People won’t be shocked or surprised if I wear purple; I’ve done so most of my life.
Maybe I’ll buy a red hat?