Thursday, 3 April 2014

Guest Blog on Old Age, by Alan Bedford

I am really delighted to offer a guest blog by Alan Bedford.  The subject this week is old age, or getting older but not feeling old.  Alan writes again, of something that none of us can escape.  Of getting older, of noticing that the years are passing despite us, and we have no choice but to go along with it.  Over to you Alan, and thank you.

I Am Not Old, But Getting Older by Alan Bedford.

I am not old, but like everyone from day one I am getting older.  I am not housebound, but the joints ache more. I am not past it, or I wouldn’t have had the beautiful youngster Antonia Rolls on my arm for most of the last 6 years.  But I do get my state pension- or would if I hadn’t deferred it. (A great deal folks, you get it later with 10% interest!). I am retired, but work most of the time.  I no longer play American football or soccer, but still play pretty serious tennis, and can dance all evening. If I live as long as my Dad I only have 6 years left, but 35 years if I make it to 100.

Alan as a baby at his christening in 1948

So getting old is a process, not something you suddenly become. Why have I decided to write this? A couple of weeks ago I was crossing the road, when a white van man stopped to allow me to cross. It hit me that he must have thought me old and in need of special politeness and time. I almost sprinted to prove him wrong! It made me think though, so here are my thoughts.

It is of course true that I am old-er now. I have the delights of a third off off-peak rail travel, and could have a bus pass if I ever got on a bus – and I feel really pleased when  the chemist tells me I don’t  have to pay for prescriptions, or I can get a senior ticket at  the cinema!  But it’s not all good news, I start to notice in the papers that famous people are dying at my age or close. I wonder how long I have left to benefit the peace and comfort I think I deserve after working flat out all my life. And one day when I go to the doctor with the next of my paranoid fears of something dire, it WILL be something dire.

There are quite a few ‘buts’ in this piece, so here’s another one. But why am I worrying? My arthritic knee has miraculously got better and I can play tennis for hours. I’m off for a tennis coaching holiday in Crete soon, having won the best man cup the last time I went at 63! I am still in demand at work. Antonia is not embarrassed dancing with me. And I can afford most of what I want- so what’s the problem? I suppose it’s because despite the power of positive thinking and looking on the bright side, it’s undoubtedly the case that I have less time til I draw my last breath than I have had so far, and it MIGHT not be long- something I really don’t fancy at all!

I wonder what it’s like to actually die?  What it feels like, whether you feel ok going, or you fight like mad to stay alive?   And what those closest to you think and feel? Will they be ok? I am hoping we have a laugh and, knowing that I am on my way, my son makes fun of my grumpiness as always and I do it even more for fun,  and we have the family sports joke about ‘there’s always next season’. 

Alan , in his forties, playing American football 

I think I can handle that bit. It’s the bit before- like getting more and more ill, hurting, and finding out there’s nothing that can be done that I might struggle with. Through most of my adult life I have defined myself though sport- by getting in the soccer first team, and being top goal scorer, or on the starting line-up for my club and country at American football, or holding my own at tennis with players 40 years younger. What will I be without sport? What will it be like if I am not the CEO or club chairman or decently paid consultant, but the dependent old chap needing dressing or even feeding, and with tubes stuck in un-mentionable places? And have to be taken out for rides rather than get in my big black leather seated saloon and go wherever I want when I want.

Actually, I don’t  think about it much- although it does cross my mind when I can’t put my right sock on without a gadget, or have  the annual prostate screening test, or the other screenings I get offered as I get older. Or policemen and women do indeed look ridiculously young, and rather old people don’t remember the 60s which I remember every day of. (I must have been drug free then if I can remember!)  In the meantime, I will keep writing serious case reviews if asked to. I will play tennis 2-3 times a week. I will travel. I will still think that I am a teenager with the same dreams that I will one day play soccer and cricket for England. I will still be seen around with the  young artist extraordinaire,  and still show my son and nephew that  I’ve still got it when I run American football passing routes in the back garden. 

But I will be taking more pills than I used to, will be using the sock gadget and taking longer to stand up  straight after a day at the desk,  will be watching my ‘5 a day’, and popping off for the screening tests.  On a bad day I might wonder how many would turn up at my funeral if I just keeled over the next time I go for that impossible return on the tennis court. At nearly every funeral I go to I say ‘I can’t imagine I’ll get a turn out like this’.

Maybe that’s it – we all want to be remembered, so I had better make the most of what’s left to make sure I am ! .

Alan today, in his glory.  (I wrote that)

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