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Today I became a canteen mum. There was I with my holey but protective footwear, my bright eyes, my expectant face and a little fear of the responsibility of adding up cash correctly.

But never fear! It was a great experience. The other ladies were very nice and patient and understanding but I must tell you about the star of the day. His name, I cannot remember but his presence was unique.

I arrived 9:30 ish to find a tall, elderly man pottering around the canteen kitchen. His eyes were bright as he pottered around. He saw me and the other new mummy and tottered over to tell us something in hushed old man tones. With personal space not being his forte, it was a little confronting at first. But then he was sent on a supermarket errand and the ladies told me his story.

This man used to be the maintenance worker at the school. So each week he comes in for half a day to relieve his glory days, to sit, to drink in the familiar surrounds. It is a nice break from his home life, where he visits with his frail wife who is suffering from dementia. But there’s not a skerrick of bitterness in him. He looks like a man full of stories, full of experiences and full of hope of more life left to live.

Like any of us, he loves his weekly routine. He serves the kids at recess, often giving them freebies if he can’t quite understand what they want or how much it costs. After this he eats his chicken sandwich, yoghurt and sweet chilli chicken, lost in his own happy world.

His pottering continues with stories of being a sailor, travelling throughout Asia. I picture him with a captain’s hat on his head and a pipe clenched between this teeth, squinting into the sea spray while singing a sea shanty through his gritted teeth, urging the ship to go faster, despite the roaring waves.

Because of his lack of personal space, I would imagine this man is a brave soul. Despite his age, he still travels overseas, often bringing back presents for his ‘girls’ in the canteen.

Around lunchtime he packed up his tucker and did the kiss-on-cheek rounds to all of us, all while sharing jigsaw pieces of his life in snippets of conversation. He left me smiling. Though some find him intimidating, I thought he was fascinating and sweet.

I love that older people have such a wealth of experience to share with us. To the rest of society they may seem past it, quirky or muddlesome but when we scratch the surface, when we ask the right questions, there is gold to be found, stuff that we can learn from and admire.

 

I’m reaching the age where the word ‘cool’ should be deleted from my vocabulary. And my latest blast from the past has been the word ‘groovy’. I wasn’t even alive in the early 70’s. Vat vas  I sinking?

Yes, folks, the time has come to start using grown up words like ‘deficit’ and ‘circumspect’ and ‘mind you’. I feel like I’m studying for the next phase of my life. The mature but not old years. Those years where your funkiness will have wrinkles and your bones will only allow you to sit around discussing world events while sipping on a glass of mature wine. My muscles have morphed from the youthful and elastic to tight and now stubbornly set in their ways. They will sit and stand (but not for too long) and the walking motion is usually restricted to a leisurely pace.

A dear friend kindly informed me that I am the new owner of three grey

Image by Nick Fraser

hairs! Three!I now have buy shares in Garnier or L’oreal. Then there are the products for saggy, pale and unattractive skin. Talk about pricey. What is youth worth to us Yolds? Is there a point in time when all this cosmetic fiddling is too little too late? When do we just give up, colour our hair purple and let the darn hairs free to roam our leathery faces? When will the cosmetic companies just leave us to ripen on our own?

Then there are expectations. Being in the prime of our lives, we are expected to know stuff, to have some awesome wisdom and give advice to the younger generation. All I hear is crickets! When you’re a Yold that still feels eighteen it’s hard to think of the right things to say. What a responsibility! Perhaps we should learn some quotes from people like:
* Sophocles – “A soul that is kind and intends justice discovers more than any sophist.”
* Aeschylus – “And though all streams flow from a single course to cleanse the blood from polluted hand, they hasten on their course in vain.”
* Euripides – “No one is truly free, they are a slave to wealth, fortune, the law, or other people restraining them from acting according to their will.”
* Marilyn Monroe – “Dogs never bite me. Just humans.”

It’s all deep, unknowable stuff. It is the start of the middle, the darkening of circles, the deepening of wrinkles, the bombardment of chemicals with the promise of eternal youth. And so, to my dear friends ‘cool’ and ‘groovy’, I bid you goodbye. It’s been choice, rad, awesome. But now, I have more mature fish to fry, chins to stroke and wise blinking to do.

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