The Old and the Restless

Still twenty good years to look forward to, I promised myself, as the hinge of the door creaked open on sixty. Twenty more good ones, barring the unforeseen and the unforeseeable: after that anything can happen.

A year later, at sixty one, my mental map of the future held firm at twenty, and so again as the door (or grave) yawned a little wider, at sixty two. This year I’m not so sure I can fudge it. Perhaps (if I am to be consistent, but then, why should I?) the future is not twenty any more, at least in the version of it I hold in my head, but seventeen – maybe. ‘Maybe,’ of course, can go either way – up, or down, or even sideways.

No wonder, I tell myself, I’ve been feeling a little bit blue lately. Blue or blah – blue having the connotation of affairs of the heart and such, which – thanks to a wife who keeps me sane (more or less) and happy (ninety five percent of the time, a pretty good average) – is not my problem, whereas blah is just so ‘yeah, whatever.’ Blah seems to capture pretty much that feeling of existential drift, of ennui, of rootlessness and disconnection, that restless search for an anchor, that has clouded my days recently.

So much, I lecture myself, for ageing gracefully, for that conventional, convenient image – you know, the groomed and contented older citizens you see in the insurance adverts and magazines like Zoomer, where sixty is the new forty and sunsets over the lake mean drinks on the deck and not the end of it all. So much for wisdom, peacefulness, acceptance.

The old and the restless: that’s me, folks, right now – that cranky old dude we all know who can’t quite see how good life is, who frets at what is not, at what is absent and what is coming, and is not, therefore, quite here and compos mentis in the present. Not yet raging against the dying of the light – but smelling that rage, the scent of storms to come, somewhere there in my future.

Rob and I have a friend who turns ninety today, and what Norah would say to all of this malcontent restlessnessness – I know this, because she has said it already – is that, from where she sits, sixty looks pretty good to her, thank you. One can’t argue with that, surely. Point taken. And I hear my mother, too – turning 85 this December, and in perfect condition – saying tartly, ‘listen here, my boy, it’s time you snapped out of this.’

Item: my only son is getting married in a few weeks, to a wonderful young woman; Rob and I will be flying out to South Africa, on Easter Monday, for the wedding which will take place on a wine farm in the winelands, in the shadow of the Hottentots Holland. After which, we will spend a few days together with the combined families in the Cederberg mountains.

Item: My youngest daughter, Eve, is pregnant with her first child and our first grandchild – due, as it happens, in August, the month of Rob’s and my birthdays.

Item: Two of my children, and their partners, are considering moving to Canada and Eve’s application is already in process. The prospect of family reunification seems suddenly quite real.

Item: my own application, for Canadian citizenship, takes a big step towards approval when I present myself to Citizenship and Immigration in Mississauga in little more than a week from now.

Item: Rob and I will follow the wedding in the Cape with a bucket-list visit to Namibia – five days of game viewing in Etosha, a couple of nights chilling under big skies in a luxury lodge near Twyfelfontein. Wide open spaces and the sounds of silence.

Item: we are healthy, happy, of sound mind and body and, if not wealthy, not poor either.

There is no reason, in other words, to be restless and gloomy. And – once we get moving, once things start happening – I know perfectly well that there will be no time at all for depression and dithering. Onwards we will go, and love every minute of it.

With all of this happening, or about to happen – with so many blessings – it’s tempting to dismiss all this blah as mere silliness – a chimera caused, perhaps, by being temporarily without work, by missing my family, a by-product or lingering aftermath of two weeks of illness. No doubt it is a little bit of all of these things.

But it is also, I have to say, about the underlying, existential question; the knowledge, deep in the bone, that there is more of life behind than ahead of me.

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