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A New Year of Being Old

Mary Kippenberger01 February 2020

BB51

A new decade. 

Seemingly minutes ago I stood in the still half-light that heralds dawn, watching from Napier’s Marine Parade as the new century slipped into view. Strangers, lining the shore, looking neither left nor right, silhouetted their presence as night took its leave. Then, as if with one accord, with no nod to the moment nor each other, they melted back to the lives from which they had come.

Twenty years ago! I was still young…ish. I had children in their teens and not a grandchild in sight. My face stayed up where I left it the night before and there were no involuntary noises to be heard from any part of my good self.

Somewhere over those twenty years a line was crossed, a baton from fading middle age to a guiding hand under an elbow was passed.

I’m not sure that I want to peek through the curtains and imagine what lies in store over the next ten years. Feels a bit front of the elevator and it’s a long way down.

However, I write in the last moments of 2019. I don’t need yet to peer or peek. But the present gives little comfort. 

Today I got half-way to school, groaned and turned mid journey. Hapless grandchild James, now 14 years, looked mildly puzzled. Late for school again due to grandparent misadventure. I would need to write him a note, but when your grandmother forgets to transition completely from pyjama to day wear and is the school counsellor then a u-turn is inevitable. 

My attachment to night attire has become a recent theme unlike my attachment to ‘inside out’ which has gained a respectable history spanning some few years.

Recently I bought a very sensible Toyota Corolla 2012 with 60,000kms on the clock. One NZ owner and serviced every 15,000kms. Pre CVT transmission. Murray our long-suffering mechanic smiled his relief.

The car needed to be picked from Taupo. I booked a 7.30am Hastings bus and set the alarm for 6am. Apparently it went off, but I didn’t. My alarm gave up its insistence at about 6.30am and I opened a reluctant eye right on 7am. I yelled causing Peter to leap a good foot from dead asleep to awake.

“I’m going to miss the bus!” I cried. 

I threw an old raincoat over baggy PJ’s, thrust my feet into jandals, grabbed a hessian carrier bag and stumbled unbrushed, dishevelled and groggy to the ute. An empty Sunday morning road combined with a bus behind time saw me crawl into a window seat with seconds to spare. 

The two and a half hours slid easily by and I was deposited without incident at the depot. By this time an insistent thought had me shuffling to the Superloo where I didn’t spend a penny, I spent fifty cents. Both shocked and relieved I returned to the street, observing Taupo in its finery. Taupo observed me back with a ‘tut tut tut’. 

Invisibility and old people often make good bedfellows, but old bag ladies are one indiscretion too far. $300 at Farmers, $60 at Number One Shoes and I was invisible again, ready to pick up my tidy little car and introduce her to life on the farm. If she could have cried, I think she would have.

Back to today. After school I went to the Woburn Rest Home to pick up 97-year-old Clarice Anderson and her seeing eye dog, Chaz. Clarice quite rightly has decided to reverse her numbers and she is now 79 years old. 

Clarice moved this week after living in her Jellicoe Street home for 60 years. She has been teaching Speech and Drama for 80 years and continues to teach and lead a community choir. She is funny, organised, kind, creative, active and generous and I am just one of thousands who love her. Many of her drama and musical resources have come home to Te Rangi Farm where we hope they will continue to support and inspire young people. Kia kaha Clarice. We are humbled by your trust. Here’s to many more years in your fine company.

So maybe I should peek into the future and whatever it might bring. Push through the challenges, appreciate the daisies, laugh lots and live life until every minute is full. Being old is really quite the privilege. 

Mary Kippenberger01 February 2020

BB51

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