“Old age (?)” – Unknown Painter from the Low Countries (16th century) (Photo credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis)
And so it comes to this, when the infirmities of old age have you well and truly in their grip.
Your medical notes get to include a cartoon sketch of your every bowel movement.
I know this because I’ve seen her notes with my own eyes at the residential home. This once proud woman has her motions, er, logged, in pictorial form, so that the doctors can spot trends and assign the appropriate treatment.
Remember these words when you look up at the age of 35, or 42, or 57 and see the bus that you failed to spot from the kerb, hurtling, irresistibly, straight for you.
Bummer, for sure, but also escape.
Not for you the endless days of imprisonment, in bed or wheelchair, as old age creeps cloyingly by. Not for you the sentence of irrelevance, as life becomes a spectator sport, charging along without you on the far side of a care home window. Not for you the vacuous stare and inane grin, while a carer talks you through the lunch menu like you’re a small child.
And not for you the Rolf Harris treatment whenever you’re wheeled into the lavatory. To the very end, your stools remained a matter for you and you alone.
Given the choice, of course, most of us will take the chance, pressing on towards our autumn years with the desperate hope that we’ll be the one in a thousand who’s still playing tennis at 80 and whose end comes quickly and quietly after a good meal.
Should such optimism prove brutally unfounded, however, I think we owe it to our loved ones to forearm them with a little perspective.
Grieve as they will for what you’ve missed, it’s important that they also quietly rejoice at what you’ve been spared.
Death in your prime, I’ve decided, gets an unduly bad press.