“So how will you celebrate your big day?”
Anne smiled at Agnes. The smile put wrinkles around the grey eyes.
“Oh please, don’t talk about it. Forty years old. It is hardly something to celebrate, is it?
Anne leaned backwards. They were sitting in her kitchen, having afternoon tea together. Like they did every Wednesday.
“Well, it’s better than the alternative”, she said, with the calm voice Carmel recognized from her childhood, when Anne’s house had been her second home.
“I know, I know. I am happy to be alive and healthy. But knowing that from now on it will all go downhill… I don’t know, I find it scary. From now on my health will get worse, my parents will need more and more help - they are almost as old as you are – and if I want to change careers it will be hard.”
Anne put her thick grey hair behind her ear, still smiling.
“I know, Carmel continued, “that it seems silly to say that to you. How old are you now?”
“Oh, old enough not to count. Forty-eight is all I remember.”
“Forty-eight? You are in your seventies, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I suppose I am, I was born in nineteen forty-eight so… seventy-one this year.”
“Well, isn’t lonely to be without your parents? And then your hip…”
“I have never been happier.”
Carmel’s eyes widened.
“I used to worry so much. I don’t worry anymore. There is no point. So, I will die soon? What else is new? Meanwhile I can enjoy being with my grandchildren.”
Carmel let her finger trace the rim of the teacup. Anne sensed her embarrassment and gently caressed her hand.
“I felt the same when I was your age. I was worried about growing old. If I had known then how much I would enjoy it, I could have saved myself so much worry.”
Jeffrey Kluger wrote in TIME about “The surprising joy of old age”. Psychologists and other investigators have found that old age is often a time defined not by sorrow, dread and regret but rather by peace, gratitude and fulfillment. They conclude that seniors become masters of “terror management theory”.
How about not waiting until you get old?
Stop worrying and make the most of what you have here and now!