a moment in history
I spend a fair bit of time analysing the depth of the wrinkles around my eyes and counting the number of grey hairs on my head. You might not have noticed it, but believe me, I'm definitely looking older.
You probably haven't noticed because you don't get as close to my face as I get to the mirror. Of course the changes I see are infinitesimal and, while I suppose technically I am aging before my very eyes, it's not really happening fast enough to be daily observable.
It's a sad fact of life however, that whether it looks like it or not, we are all getting closer to the grave minute by minute, second by second. Gravity, sugar, UV, repetitive actions are all taking their toll on our bodies. We do a mighty fine job of denying this. Hair dye, makeup, botox, teeth whiteners, boob jobs, liposuction, bionic joints... we're darn close to immortality with all these perfecting treatments.
Well... that's what we'd all like to think at least. Death is a long way off and it's coming so slowly we can pretend it isn't happening.
That's probably why I feel so sad about what I saw today. It was confronting and painful, and it's coming to all of us one day. There's no denying it.
Launceston has this crazy system of one way streets. Once you're used to them, navigating is a breeze, but every few months I see a tourist or two try and turn up a street instead of down and my heart has a little start.
I didn't actually see the mustard yellow beetle turn up the street the wrong way this afternoon. By the time I arrived, the traffic was stopped, a gaggle of youth gawped from their usual mall hang out and three policemen were helping the elderly gentleman reverse his car back onto the right street in the right direction.
We may not have realised it, but possibly we were witnessing this gentleman's last drive of freedom. I heard a bloke inform one of the police that he was sure he'd seen the very same man do the exact same thing last week. 'We're onto it,' said the cop, ' He's pulling over up ahead and we'll have a talk to him.'
And I almost cried, because how sad and humiliating to reach the point you can't remember which street is for turning left into and which is for turning right. And how debilitating to get so old you lose your licence because you aren't capable of driving safely anymore. I can't really see my wrinkles growing daily, but I knew that in that moment I was watching a very public crumbling into old age.
Like I said, we'll all be there one day, and it hurts me to think that all our strong, healthy, wonderful bodies are headed for decay and weakness. It doesn't seem right. Not just because I love what my body can do, but because as a society we are so obsessed with perfection that we've kidded ourselves into thinking we can beat aging. We have no time for old people and the richness of their stories. We forget the contribution they have made to our society, their struggles and their victories. We're too busy panicking over our own grey hairs and lines and aches and pains to see the beauty and value of old age.
Everyone has a story. I wish I knew the story of that man today. Silly things like when he bought his VW, how he kept it looking so good, who he loved, who loved him, his legacy. We all looked on with pity when we should have had respect. Maybe if we honoured our old instead of wishing we weren't becoming them, they wouldn't feel so useless and disempowered. Perhaps they wouldn't need to cling to every last vestige of independence if they were valued and respected. Maybe they could continue to make meaningful contributions to society - if we let them. If we acknowledged the beauty and wonder of this cycle that is life, the blossoming and growing, the living and working, the resting and fulfillment of a life well lived.
I'll probably keep up my wrinkle and grey hair patrol, but I sure as hell am not going to pretend I'm not getting older. Sometimes I almost like it. There's a depth and fullness and knowing that keeps on growing, that noone can give me (imagine how much knowing that old man has...). I have to live life to get it (...how much he has lived through), and perhaps each grey hair represents the kernels of truth I'm picking up along the way.
I treasure the kernels. Maybe I'll even learn to treasure the grey.