Life is a funny old thing. We have no choice but to accept the call and take one step at a time, in a straight line from the beginning to the end.
We are born, and our parents give us the best start that they can. Why? So that we may grow strong and healthy, and happily too. We acquire simple skills that will serve us in our one-step-at-a-time journey, and we increase that list with each day. Our parents fret about schools and the opportunities that they may bring. Why? They want us to achieve fully and to realise some of our potential. Why? So that we can obtain some life-skills, gather a few marks on paper. Why? To get to the next good school and take that process on to the next level. More marks on paper, more life-skills (if we are lucky and live in the right places, and born into the right families). School follows school, followed by college maybe. We gather skills and marks so that we can leave school or college well-equipped to either make use of those life skills or hone them further at a university.
Childhood is about learning, growing and acquiring, so what of adulthood? To me it seems that it is about earning, growing and acquiring. Why? Either to have the best 'stuff', or raise a family in the most conducive environment possible (or both of those things, if really fortunate). If childhood was done well for us, we hope to be healthy and vital, equipped to move through a working life and meeting its challenges. We start at the bottom and over a generation, hop gently 'upwards' in the means by which we provide for ourselves and our families. Junior status gives way to senior status, and with any luck, we take in the scenery as we go.
Adulthood, like the roller-coaster ride that it is, goes up-diddly-up-up, and then goes down-diddy-down-down as bits of our mortal framework start to to have other ideas. We display signs of ageing and we experience the onset of the rigours of increasing age. We may be a fighter-pilot, we may be a CEO of a multi-national corporation, we may be the man who sweeps the street. We will have raised our families, given our children the best that we could. Why? So their cycle starts. If all goes as we plan, we reach a point where we stop being a General in the Army or the one who sat at Till 21 for as many years. We become pensioners - old together. The only outward signs of who we were is perhaps where we now live. Our bodies start to fail and life takes its own toll on us.
It seems to me that it as that point that we become rather irrelevant. I read an article recently about one person's experience of old-age care, as meted out to their grandparent. It made for difficult reading, not because I didn't recognise its laments, but because I did. I am glad to say that my experience of care-homes and residential homes for the elderly in Aylesbury has been nothing but good. I visit some, and they are good places, often fraught with the constraints that life imposes upon them too.
What I do recognise, and something I pray will pass me by (some hope), is that there comes a time when a lot of us will need to be cared for in a home. If we are really lucky, we will be in our old age - not a flippant comment, as I know of a woman in her fifties who has resided in such homes for three years already, and is likely to live until she is in her eighties (but that is another story). Boredom is a big thing in places like that. Not necessarily through fault, but because of failing bodies and an inability to be and do what we once were and did - all the while retaining vital minds the same as we were in our twenties in some cases. Imagine being a former spitfire pilot, a veteran of the Battle of Britain, when all you can do is sit in a chair and watch Loose Women? A gentle life as a reward, or a curse for those who reach old age? Whilst I pray that I live a long life, see my family grow and their families too, I also fear what extreme frailty and old age bring with them.
I also know that there is more that I can do as a man in my 30s to help those in that situation.