to have time for everything.
He doesn’t have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes
was wrong about that. ‘
So starts the poem “A Man in his Life" by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000). I am inclined to believe him.
|The Seven Ages of Man - sculpture by|
Last week was an unusual one, I spent four days running exclusively in the company of people well past retirement age, both friends and strangers. Meetings of the poetry group, the German conversation group and an 88th birthday party fell on consecutive days. Topping the whole thing off was an afternoon in the waiting area of the busy Lucentis clinic, which treats eye disease.
Shrunken shanks, bellies and boobs gone south, sensible shoes and elasticated waistbands, bony, shrivelled frames as well as well-fleshed ones, spectacles, hearing aids, walking sticks, all were in evidence. Groans sitting down and getting up, a sure sign of 'getting on a bit’. I must remember to avoid that in future.
The people in the waiting area were a sad lot, uniformly grey and old and rather shabby. The threat of losing your sight is a wretched business, we know the feeling well, so I may have to forgive them their air of doom. All the same, I doubt that they have done all they want to do, seen all they want to see. Nothing to look forward to? I bet not a single one of them is ready to call it a day.
The members of the poetry and language groups certainly haven’t had season enough for every purpose. There is much left to learn, their enthusiasm for art and literature, poetry, travel and music is undimmed, their pensionable age notwithstanding. All use the internet freely, all have young families to enjoy and instruct, all follow current affairs and have well defined opinions on anything that goes on in the world.
The birthday party was probably the one with the greatest tally in years and hearing aids. If you are eighty-eight most of your friends are old. But the party spirit was undiminished; glass of wine in hand, a plate with a few small delicacies precariously balanced on a knee or a side table, the guests enjoyed themselves. Plans were made for future entertainments: “We should all chip in, then nobody has to do all the work”. Although the laughter was a bit throaty, the conversations shouted, and the anecdotes no longer fresh, the company was well and truly alive. There are seasons to come. Life is sweet. Cram in as much as you can, it’ll still be too soon when it ends, and you go to that place where there’s endless time for everything.
A man needs to love and hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
to make love in war and war in love.
And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and digest
takes years and years to do.
To be honest, I prefer my company more mixed, a variety of ages; I wouldn’t be happy living in a retirement enclave. But there’s nothing wrong with old age that a curious mind, an active life and a glass of wine with a friend cannot cure.