As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
IF you live long enough, surprising things can happen. By the time you read this I will be a proper published author with my first book, ‘Solace’, out in the world at last. I’m no spring chicken and as I outlived my own mother’s age at her death, 33, by a whole other lifetime, I’ve been determined to hang in there as long as possible. Funnily enough, getting old never included any ambition to be published and so it is as big a surprise to me as it is to anyone else to see my book in the shops.
There are many advantages to hanging in there. You live to see changes that you never imagined would happen, you appreciate every day as a bonus, and you get offers of help with your shopping from younger, stronger people all the time.
‘The student doctor kept referring to my age. “At your age,” she kept saying. I felt like looking behind me to see if there was by chance anyone else in the room that she could be referring to? My age, I enquired?’
The first time someone offered to help me with the bags, I thought I hadn’t heard them properly. Why on earth would I, above all other people here, require any help?! That’s how easy it is to simply forget that you are ‘an old age pensioner’ even though it’s apparently quite obvious to everyone else! I still haven’t succumbed to ‘being helped’ as so far I can wheel a trolly as well as the next lad. However, I fully appreciate that the lucky ones amongst us no matter what age are temporarily able bodied and will need that help at some stage in our lives.
The other shock to the system was the day the student doctor kept referring to my age. “At your age,” she kept saying. I felt like looking behind me to see if there was by chance anyone else in the room that she could be referring to? My age, I enquired?
“Well,” says she, “a cough like that is very worrying for someone your age.” There it was again… “at your age”. She thought I wasn’t on half enough medication for someone “my age” and as she talked on I couldn’t quite believe that I was now that older lady, sitting waiting on a young doctor, a third of my age, to put me back together.
Another advantage to being older is that you notice a certain deference from younger people. Not all, but some are a little timid around their elders. It’s almost as if we are chip off the old block of the likes of Her Majesty and require some kind of special delicate treatment. I would milk this for all it’s worth if only I could keep a straight face. ‘Tis far from kid gloves any of us were reared, as my father used to say.
A friend Whatsapped me with great excitement. She was using her free travel for the first time. “Imagine,” says she, “I’m on a bus from Tramore to town as the car is in the garage.”
The rest of the group chimed in with proposals to go to Dublin on the train. Maybe we could be like those ‘old dears’ we used to see when we were travelling to Dublin for work. They used to hop on with picnics, flasks of tea and often something stronger. I always envied their party mood and now I understand why.
If you live long enough you will remember how good we have it these days. Ireland is again in the top 10 of best countries to live in, according to the UN. Yes, we are number eight on the list of countries with the best quality of life. And it’s true. Our social welfare rates are one of the reasons we are up there and while we have intractable housing problems, long hospital waiting lists and now crazy energy bills coming down the tracks, Ireland, especially outside of Dublin, is still a good place to live.
The younger generation smirk when I say these things. But when you have lived long enough to compare two centuries and to talk about growing up in a cold house, four to a bed, you might as well lay it on with a trowel. No wonder then I have never in my life expected to walk around the house half naked in winter? Wear thermals, for heaven’s sake, I say.
So I’ve lived long enough to see free contraception being introduced in Ireland. I’m even 10 years older than Peig Sayers was when she dictated her life story and the rest of us had to suck it up in school. Now to cap it all, the Queen of England is gone and I have no one ahead of me to point to and say, well, if she can do it at 96, I can do it too.
So live long enough and you too will have plenty of surprises ahead.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com