Most of us are in awe of the natural rhythms of the world; the cycling of the seasons, and the turning of the tides.
We watch in wonder in spring as small buds burst into bloom, then smile at them wistfully in autumn when their wilting flowers wither and fall. Green goes to brown. Day turns to night. Life turns to death turns to new life again.
Oh aye, when it comes to the perennial patterns of the world, we’re only a few feathers and a bodhran away from being just like our pagan ancestors.
However, while most of us are willing to embrace the unchanging will of the world as it exacts itself upon all other finite lifeforms, we are not as ready to accept Mother Nature’s guiding hand as it ushers us along the tracks of our own life. And understandably so.
Aye, the aul’ ageing process. Wrinkles. Bad joints. All manner of unwelcome affect. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.
Anyway, while we’re on the topic…
I was in the pub a while ago, when I found myself in profound disagreement with my own mother over the extent to which the ageing process had taken its toll upon a particular man’s face.
She thought he looked incredibly – almost unnaturally – well for his age. I thought he looked fairly well, but not nearly as well as she thought he did.
There were a number of us sat around a lock of tables trying to have a nice time. To my immediate left was my ma. The neighbour to my right was a big, oppressively talkative man of about 60 or so. To his right was his father.
I cannot recall the exact age of the big slabber’s father, but he wasn’t kick in the arse off 90. If he’d been a pear, he’d have been binned.
The pub was noisy. Disorientating conversations criss-crossed the table, so, out of convenience, and, also, because I’d be quite fond of her, I found myself chatting mostly to my mother.
“Hi, see your man is nearly 90,” I remarked. “He’s doing well to be out and about and having the craic, isn’t he?”
She poked her head out and looked past me in a weak effort of catching an inconspicuous glimpse of the youthful 80-odd-year-old I was on about.
“Watch ye don’t break your neck,” I advised.
She wound it back in.
“Jesus Christ, Emmet. That boy couldn’t be near 90,” she said, her face awash with genuine disbelief. “He looks about 60.”
I thought this was quite a strong reaction – an over-reaction, in fact.
The man looked like a sprightly 90-year-old, but a 90-year-old nonetheless. However, a few gins had been drank, and emotions were elevated.
“Aye, mad, isn’t it?” I said, in tempered agreement.
She stuck her head out again, even more conspicuously than before. Then drew it back once more.
Eyes wide, jaw hung in total shock, she said, “That is absolutely mad. That’s unbelievable. He looks great. He doesn’t even look 60. What a legend. What an absolute wee legend.”
Frantically trying to attract the attention of my da, as though worried that the miracle of this man’s face may vanish before he got the chance to see it, she started kicking the leg of him under the table.
“What, Ann?” he said, like a man who had unexpectedly taken about six rapid-fire shots to the shin.
Hushed but manic, she implored him to guess what age your man was.
I couldn’t hear his reply, but it was obvious that he had shot about 20 years older than my mother had anticipated.
Offended, she set the dagger upon him.
“Wise up, he looks better than you,” said the little, gin-filled savage.
Me and the aul’ boy looked at one another in disgust; as though to say, ‘First a kick in the shin, now a boot in the…’
Then she start laughing insanely. Snots almost flew. We looked on in bewilderment.
When, eventually, she had managed to compose herself, we found out what had occurred.
Apparently, the big slabbering 60-year-old to my right had been obstructing my mother’s view of the aul’ fella the entire time. She had no idea he was there.
His presence, she said, had only became apparent when his oaf of a son leant back to bury the last of his pint, thus opening up a clear line of sight between my mother and his, quite-clearly, 90-year-old-dad.
Suppressing her laughter and turning to my wounded father in false apology, she said, “Sorry about that, love, I didn’t realise.
“You still look a couple of years younger than that boy yet.”
Your man sat on, chatting away, putting away his half pints, oblivious to the laugh he had given us. I got chatting to him after. He was sound.
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