This picture is meant to make us all laugh and smile but this week I was slapped in the face with the reality of growing older. We all like to think that we are doing quite well at coping with our advancing years, brushing off the increase in number with a smile and a casual comment, ” Of course I don’t feel anything like 64, or whatever age we may be” We dash back to the hairdresser for another cut and just a hint of colour, a few lowlights, carefully apply our almost invisible make-up to give us a youthful glow, eat another plate of salad in the vain hope of getting in to our favourite pair of black trousers but try as we might change is happening, little by little that we can’t ignore.
I turned 65 a couple of weeks ago and celebrated in style with my family, enjoyed opening my gifts and cards and thought very little about the passing of another year. The following week however, my husband and I had plans to visit Warwick and Stratford and Avon; the hotels were booked, the theatre tickets for Stratford had been purchased many months ago and we were both looking forward to the RSC’s latest production of Macbeth.
It all started to go wrong when I began to pack. We live in the country and much of my life is spent outdoors in practical jeans and T shirts, sweaters and jackets, but we were off to the city and needed to up our game clothes wise. I needed to fill my case with a mix of clothes belonging to the ‘smart casual’ label. Within half an hour our bedroom resembled that of a teenager; as I tried on a combination of trousers and shirts, skirts and tops, none of which seemed to either look or feel right, I was in despair. My weight has not changed for some time, but somehow while I wasn’t looking my body has! Bits that used to be rounded are now flatter and vice versa; I stick out where I used to go in, I have a little bulge above my waistband that I feel certain must belong to someone else and has just been misplaced. My poor husband did his best with reassuring comments and compliments but to no avail, I simply could not deal with the changes I was experiencing. There was nothing for it but a call to an old and dear friend of similar age, who understood completely, shared similar moments and we both ended up laughing. I know it was silly, juvenile in many ways but it was a moment of reckoning. I really had to face up to the fact that this was the best I would be from now on and I should rejoice in my positive attributes and good health.
So we went away and had fun, I forgot about the clothes episode and enjoyed seeing new places and sharing new experiences with John. It was our anniversary and we had booked a table in a lovely Italian restaurant. The wine was excellent, the food delicious and at the end of the meal I stood up to visit the Ladies Room. The floor throughout the restaurant was swirling black and white marble, the stairs leading to the restrooms the same. Too busy looking at the wonderful pictures on the walls I failed to see that the first step was a shallow one set on the diagonal and in an instant I fell up the marble stairs. The staff were kind and attentive, I felt a complete fool. Assuring them that I was fine I scuttled to the sanctuary of the Ladies and checked myself out. My left knee had born the main impact and was already black and blue and swelling fast. My right shoulder and ribs were tender and aching but otherwise I seemed to be OK.
Returning to the table I told John what had happened, he called for the bill and we left. I managed to walk slowly back to our hotel and spent the rest of the evening with a cold compress on my knee, slowly recovering from the shakes and the overwhelming feeling of stupidity. Yes the restaurant could have highlighted the lower step, but I should have been paying more attention ( and it wasn’t that I had drunk too much, only two small glasses of white wine). My brain then went swiftly in to ‘what if’ mode, what if I had hit my head? what if I had broken a bone? Thankfully I had done neither and at least I can rest assured that I don’t have osteoporosis because that floor was extremely hard and would certainly have broken any brittle bones.
A week has passed, my knee is now a normal size and coloured in various shades through green to yellow, the stiffness in my shoulder and side almost gone but I still feel worn out and quite shaky when I remember the speed at which I fell, the inevitability of knowing I was falling but could do nothing about it. The experience has made me understand how awful it must be to be truly old and take a tumble; not only for the pain and discomfort but the lack of confidence which must surely follow.
I wear variofocal glasses and yesterday had them checked as I know the frames were a little loose and I may have been looking through the wrong section of lens, which will not have helped. I also went for my ‘over 60s’ health check and was told that my blood pressure was raised yesterday. “Not to worry,” said the nurse when she heard about my fall, “these things really shake you up. We’ll check you again in a fortnight.”
So a lesson, well learned in the last couple of weeks: aging is inevitable, change will happen and all we can do is make the most of what we have. Nothing is more important than our health, and as I regain my suppleness and lose the aches and pains I am truly grateful. I shall never approach an unknown set of stairs again with such a cavalier attitude.