It's Granny's birthday tomorrow. And no, she is not telling you how old she will be. She is old enough. Such an event these days is not an event for rejoicing in - or only in the sense of a wake. She can in that sense rejoice in still being alive. She does. Mostly.
But the rest of it....A little while back Granny read a complaint by a New Yorker of how, what with gyms, plastic surgery, facials etc etc, all women of a certain type there look the same, more or less, no matter their age. And how boring it is. Granny understands that complaint. A certain lack of wrinkles, a visual sameness might be boring to look at all round. On the other hand she's not so happy about remaining - as a Brit of a certain income, as well as age, without access to the above benefits - part of other people's visual stimulation. She really would like her teeth, her hair, her un-cataract-threatened eyes, her smooth skin, her smooth limbs back. Yes please, yes please. She'd like to experience still that sharp, sweet shock of mutually appreciative glances between her and a man in the street, in the tube, across a room - a man she'll never see again, let alone meet, but still warms to in passing; such glances slide right over her now. Looking in the mirror - especially in certain lights - she knows why, She also knows why wrinkles etc are interesting to painters; some of Rembrandt's portraits of old women for instance are wonderful, even his best. But she doesn't WANT TO BE THAT OLD WOMAN. Well she isn't yet, quite, But getting on that way.
All older people all all all, virtually, complain that they feel just the same inside. It's only looking in the mirror makes them realise they are not, Actually that's only true up to a point. There's lots of ways Granny felt when she was young that she would not want to feel again. Never never never. She'd prefer to feel the way she does now, and look the way she did then; no, she's not over ambitious; forty would do nicely. She wouldn't want to look any younger than that.
Tell her that she was born with a set of spare parts, waiting for her to fit, she'd be happy. Probably.
But then there are the warnings. Last week she saw Janacek's marvellous opera the Makropoulis Case. (And no she is not going to apologise for being a highbrow, elitist, opera-lover. She just is, so boo sucks.) It's about a 327 year old woman. Granny has always felt for that story. She wrote her own version of it once. And what comes out of it is that immortality is not good. In fact it sucks, cutting you off from real life, from other people. Granny agrees with that. She really does. She doesn't want to live for ever. She can pretty much accept death. What she has much harder work with is accepting... old age. No, she does not want to go in for resignation like old women in India, wearing white, meditating, giving up on life in a haze of peace. Resignation is for the resigned, she thinks. Granny is not resigned. She still likes the jangle of life, noisy, uncomfortable as it is. She does not care to accept that when, for instance, some programme comes up on the telly, some article in the Guardian about old age, care homes, whatever, she's in there gleaning relevant information. But she does get in there. Any minute, she knows this is going to effect HER. Oh God, oh God, oh God. If she cannot believe it, she has to remember her old dad, who was just the same. In his mid eighties, convalescing from an operation in a home run for aged civil servants, he waved his hand round his assembled companions, many of them a good ten years younger than himself, saying "I never expected to find myself in place full of old ducks like this."
Well he did. It happens to all of us, dad. It happens to all of us, Granny. It's not called acceptance; rather it's called 'Grow up, Granny. Grow up'.
But that's it. She has grown up and up and on and on. That is the whole trouble. Go, get lost, Granny, jump, unaccepting or not, in the river. Happy Birthday, self.
Oh: and in passing. Wonderful Wikipedia - what else - tells her she shares a birthday with, among others Donald Trump, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Boy George. Fancy that.