Age is on my mind more than it should be these days. Not so much the mechanics of growing old, although, of course I’m aware of them too. Who wouldn’t after waving goodbye to their fiftieth birthday spend a little more time than usual examining wrinkles in the magnifying mirror; notice that ‘long in the tooth’ is not just an expression, or mentally listing the creaks and groans emerging from unwilling joints? All these are small potatoes compared with the alternative – not reaching a fiftieth birthday!
So why is growing old on my mind?
I guess two reasons.
- Have I achieved enough?
I guess I’m no different to most when I look back on my life and ask ‘Could I have done better?’ and the funny thing is I really don’t know the answer. I did the best I knew how.
- Have I laughed enough?
The answer to that is absolutely NOT. It took a visit from the unchanging Nathan McCree to remind me what I’d been missing.
Last week Nathan travelled all the way from the Czech Republic to give a guest lecture at NHTV. On his last night with us, he and Mr Sunshine went out into Breda. I guessed from the laughter and rather noisy banging of doors that trumpeted their return they’d had a good time. I promised myself I wouldn’t go to go down and tell them to be quiet. I’m rubbish at promises!
I found two grown men hanging on to the wall giggling uncontrollably. They looked so free I didn’t have the heart to moan. I muttered something about little girls sleeping next door. They tried to lower their voices, but something funny, so side-splittingly hilarious was burning away every scrap of their control. What was it that was driving these two, almost, respectable, reasonable serious individuals to behave like six years olds? All I could gather was it was something to do with basil.
The next morning, on a napkin, a piece of toilet paper, a notepad and scrawl across two sheets of printer paper I found the phrase ‘In the shade of the basil’. That’s it, that’s all it was. I was stumped for a moment, what was so funny? Then I realised it wasn’t the phrase that was funny. It was the sense of liberty and release that’s comes with spending time with someone you whose history you share.
It’s times like that I realise how much I miss my family and friends. I want to hear my brother tell the joke about the man who wants half an orange for a head; watch my sister wipe tears of laughter from her face; listen to my niece’s obscure reasoning, or just sit by a log fire and watch two old friends heckle Mr Sunshine. With a bit of luck I can have all these things for Christmas, which is exactly what I need not to grow old.