In the approaching months, in fact for most of 2020, the prospect of turning seventy was a constant hum in the back of my mind. Every so often it turned into thoughts. I didn’t relish crossing the threshold into the era of slow walks, sometimes aided by a walking stick; musty old person smells; cardigans; high waistlines; loose dentures; incontinence; uncontrollable farting; regular medical checks; and boring, mood-dampening rambles about ‘what we did in my day’. Seventy has always had bad press. The bible is partly, maybe chiefly, responsible. Psalm number ninety, verse ten says, ‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away’. What charming prose. Woe be unto those who struggle to eighty.
I am not sure when the human age span plummeted. The Psalms were written not that long after Adam and Methuselah attained the outrageously overripe ages of 930 and 969 respectively. And Methuselah did not even die. He went for a walk with God and was never seen again. Or something like that. Maybe after ‘The Flood’ God decided to slash the lifespan of his flagship creation to limit the amount of damage that they could do to all his other creations. He hasn’t exactly succeeded. Three score and ten has proven to be ample time to wreak damage, sometimes on a monumental scale. The question is why God, in his wisdom, in his image no less, created so potentially destructive a creature. Some might point out that God was quite the destructive tyrant himself. It’s not a question I want to ponder because I don’t believe all that stuff. But lots of people do. Lots of old people do, too. They say that from seventy onwards you should prepare to meet your maker. Presumably he will be holding your report card when you are ushered into his presence. Or hers. Now that will be something unexpected. Patriarchy could never countenance a female at the pinnacle of a divine hierarchy. The objective view I hold is that, like all other biological species, as soon as I die, I cease to exist. When my life is snuffed out, the entity that lives in my head is also snuffed out. I descend into an eternal sleep. Subjectively though, the concept of an eternal sleep is difficult to grasp. Surely, I am going to wake up somewhere. The chance that I might wake up in the future on this planet (reincarnation anyone?), or maybe on another planet in another solar system, or in another dimension (whatever that means) is exciting. It is the stuff of fantasies. Like religion and other myths.
On January 25 this year I was sixty-nine. Then the next day I turned seventy. I am still the same silly, slightly obsessive person. But when I tell myself that I am now seventy, officially progressed (or regressed) from old to elderly, it seems like an attack on my self-concept. I don’t know what I’d say if someone asked me my age. I guess like most things I’ll become used to it. At least that hum in the back of my head has been silenced for ever. I think turning eighty is going to be a doddle.