It was my 60th birthday. The day went by as usual but in the evening as I stepped out of my room I was surprised to see my children and grand children excitedly gathering in the living room. They showered me with gifts, cards and flowers as I sat a bit dazed. Sixty years! That’s quite a long time to be around. When I retired to my room at night a sense of nostalgia seemed to seize my heart.
Although moved by the loving gesture of my family, I felt strangely sad for all the years that had flown by and the time that would never come back; for the loving faces that were once an integral part of my life but had long since left for their heavenly abode; for the opportunities in life which either did not come my way or were missed. So much water had passed under the bridge. Sad I definitely felt but thankfully there was no remorse, no wish to go back and do things all over again. I was content with my life and satisfied with whatever it had dished out to me.
As a child I would look up in awe at my 30 plus mother and wonder how old she must be feeling. At that time, 30 years seemed a far way off. But when I reached that age, I laughed at myself as I remembered my feelings for my mother because at 30 I felt young, strong and full of life. I realised that in her 30s, my Mom must have felt the same. Abhee tou mein jawan hoon… I would often hum to myself, but I strongly doubted whether I would manage to live to 60. Thirty more years felt too far away.
Years fly and life moves on! Here I am at 60 plus, in fairly good health except for normal age related problems like arthritis and insomnia. Living in an extended family with my married sons, I categorically refuse to take the golden hand shake, trying to remain as active as possible. Although each passing year does take its toll, I consider each day I can carry out my daily chores a blessing, each additional year a bonus. As Maurice Chevalier says, “A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth. Instead of its bringing sad and melancholy prospects of decay, it would give us hopes of eternal youth in a better world.”
What do women usually feel when they reach this landmark in life? Rehana sounded sad, “I spent the prime of my life working endless hours, giving tuitions to supplement my husband’s income, because we wanted to give quality education to our two sons. I looked forward to the time when my sons would get good jobs and I would sit back and relax. But all my dreams remained unfulfilled. My sons migrated abroad in search of greener pastures. Now that we are old, I and my husband feel lonely and let down. The sons come every two or three years with their families and send lots of money but can this make up for their absence in our day to day life?”
Shireen has other complaints, “After retirement, I really miss the busy days when there was so much to do. Trying to create a perfect balance between my job, children, household chores and personal life, I often thought 24 hours were not enough for a day. Now I sometimes don’t know how to spend my time. Praying, reading and gardening are some of the activities that keep me busy — things I had always wanted to do but never had enough time for. Maybe this is one of the advantages of being old.”
Reema sounded very practical. “At this age there is so much to look back on, but not much to look forward to. With advancing years, I expect a far less active life, failing health and the inevitable end. But I have a rich past and feel that I have led a full life; so when the end comes I shall be content to slip away peacefully. I do not regret my life and believe that it is a privilege to have lived all these years.”
When asked, a relatively young friend said with a naughty smile, “I have yet to reach 60 to understand what you are feeling but it reminds me of my father who lived to be 80 plus. Whenever anyone asked his age he would always say, ‘I am 50/ 60/ 70 years young’. He never used the word ‘old’ for himself and he died young at heart.”
I totally agree with this frame of mind. With so much more to do, so many stones unturned and goals yet to achieve, I have no time to feel old, sick or at the end of life at 60. According to Sophia Lauren, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.
When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” The number of years I have lived do not matter. I shall only grow old when I desert my ideals.