This blog seems to have temporarily turned into a confessional. I’m not sure why. Something about that persistent cough, and a need to get things off my chest?
In her comment a couple of weeks ago, Karen McFarland told me that a cough, in Chinese medicine, indicates grief. Her question, “Are you grieving about something?” touched a nerve.
But what am I grieving? A small dog?
Well, yes, but the cough began before that. A few months before my 35th birthday when, looking in the mirror, I saw lines I hadn’t seen before.
Lines that sneered… Whatever did you do with your youth?
Luckily, right now, there’s no time to dwell on that question, because Ms and I have an appointment to interview a woman 40 years my senior…
Margaret welcomes us to her home and introduces the dancing Pomeranian, Beau, and more elderly Shih Tzu, Pugsley.
We exchange small talk, and she blithely dismisses the question of marriage.
“Oh, no…I was much too busy for all that.” As the interview proceeds, we start to understand why.
In the 1970s and 80s, Margaret worked as an ambulance driver for the local animal hospital. In that time, she saw more death, disease and neglect of animals than most of us will ever see. Over the years, she has personally given 38 stray cats and dogs a home and a second chance at life.
She travelled. And worked three jobs to pay off a house since, back then, the banks refused single women loans.
She has the hearty laugh of a woman half her age, and more energy than I do, judging by her exercise regime.
A walk and a swim every morning down at the beach, aqua aerobics at least twice a week – and she cooks!
“I’m always trying new recipes,” she says, and as soon as the interview is over, the table is laden with cheese, crackers and a delicious avocado dip.
“Wine?” she offers, a little cheekily, when the most we might have expected was a cup of tea.
As the wine flows, and afternoon tea becomes dinner at the pub, she reveals another side.
She speaks about her close ‘friend’, with whom she’s shared her life and home for 38 years.
A woman whom she has nursed through Alzheimer’s, and only recently moved into a nursing home.
She proceeds to tell stories of life in Melbourne when it was illegal to be gay…
Slowly, in one afternoon, Margaret manages to blow my mind of every preconceived idea of age.
I realise, I am not only sitting with an elderly woman who is positively youthful. I am sitting with a role model.
One of a generation of people, my elders, caught between periods of social change, and invisible to those of us now walking in their shoes.
Invisible, that is, until this moment.
We ask her if she worries, being alone at her age, no family…
“You know, I don’t believe in worrying about
things you can’t control.
You just have to live your life, and enjoy each day.
I have no regrets.”
Driving home, I’m quiet. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my new friend it is this: age is no barrier. And to grieve the loss of youth at 35 is more than just a little premature.
Do you worry about getting older? What do you do to stay young?