Offically old feels officially strange

 Yesterday, I went to a government service bureau, in response to a form delivered in an innocuous brown envelope. The letter began: "This information sheet will help you complete the application for the Old Age Security pension..."  No euphemisms like "golden age" or "senior's benefit". Stark, crisp 19th century language: you're old, kiddo; want a chunk of change?

How can this be?

Worse than turning 50, buying support hose (which at least I no longer need, thanks to EVLA),or hearing my doctor begin a sentence with "At your age..." was the receipt of an official document in benevolent, 14-point sans-serif type.

I went to them. Fanette, the Service Canada clerk, was twinkly as she led me though the paperwork and notarized some documents, flashing a way to go, girlfriend look when Le Duc filled in his birthdate (seven years after mine) in the spousal info field.  

After being officially old-person processed, I ran an errand but found myself standing in a Mephisto store. What am I, a geriatric homing pigeon? The place was full of head to toe wash-and-wearers, one woman hauling three shopping bags stuffed from a spree at Tilley. I fled.

Home empty-handed, wondering if a martini at 2:45 pm. is somehow so wrong.

Realized I had a boiled-wool and leather jacket scooped off a sale rack last spring, just waiting for a cool fall day. Added my Diamond Jubilee scarf for succor: Her Majesty is even older.

Strode across the street to the park to check out a band playing, "real good, for free" as the Joni Mitchell song goes.

Oh right, as the song went in...1970.

I've always said I don't mind getting older; when I think of friends who are no longer here, carping seems ungrateful. But today, my government formally acknowledged my old age, and it feels so sudden, so weird. 

When the first cheque hits my account in July, I'm choosing some kind of symbol of this passage, funded with a few dollars of this initial payment and also donating to the organizations who work to alleviate the diseases that claimed some of my favourite friends, whom I dearly wish were here to grow old with me.


Anonymous said…
Lovely bittersweet post. And may I say, you look amazing! J.
You look great. Her Majesty is a whole generation older; thought Charles was your age, checked, he's a year younger. I'm pretty sure I'm the same age as one of his younger sibs. And remember how long her mother lived! (Not her dad; he died of smoking in middle age, as did mine).

I loathe getting older. Yes, of course dying young or in middle age is infinitely worse.

There was a Mental Health awareness day here, last week if I recall, with Margaret Sinclair-Trudeau-Kemper as spokesperson. Your comment about your sister's suicide set me off thinking - and dreaming - about a couple of people close to me who had done so. We usually think of cancer and circulatory disease as among the major killers, but despair is certainly up there too.

You are also lucky that today is a perfectly lovely day. I'm going chez une amie to celebrate her birthday (she is a couple of years older than you, and one of those wiry athletic types - her dad was a phys ed professor and senior tennis player in retirement) and that of another friend who must be almost ten years older, still going strong in his 70s, flying all over the place giving lectures and attending conferences. Comme ça va sans dire, there will be good food and wine, and perhaps even a bit of sun left on the terrasse in late afternoon...

Obviously not everyone can be as high-powered as that, but it gives me a bit of optimism. I find getting older feels lonely and sad, and it isn't because I'm friendless by any means. Hard to articulate exactly what I mean. I certainly don't mean despair; wistfulness?
Susan B said…
First, you look *amazing* in that scarf and jacket. They don't mince words up there, eh? So many of our passages to the next stage of life are marked by some kind of celebration (weddings, births, graduations). This one is more slow and subtle, and doesn't have a single marking event, so your proposed symbol sounds right and appropriate. And yes, getting old beats the alternative.
Swissy said…
You do look wonderful, Duchesse. I retired six years ago, at age 63, and the SS paperwork was not too bad. The realization that I was really and truly there, was indeed a reason to pause. I think we had a glass of wine at lunch. But yes, we're here. And I really do feel better than at any time of my life. I'm adding a rarely-worn scarf to my everyday ensemble in your honor.

Susan said…
If you are the picture of old age, I want to be there too! (I'm just a very few years behind you.) These new photos are really beautiful! I know you enjoy every day with gratefulness. I have also lost a number of beloved friends, so I know that feeling well.
KSL said…
I don't care so much about looking older. I care some, but what I don't like is the fact that most of my life has already been lived. I'm grateful to be alive and healthy, but at times, I'm acutely aware of what's ahead.

As someone said, bittersweet post and what a good idea of what to do with your old age checks.
LPC said…
You do look killer.

I don't mind aging except that it means I'm going to die. And I truly, truly don't want to die. Life is the sweetest and most blissful thing, even in its most painful moments.

I really like reading Ronni Bennet's Time Goes By blog. She puts it out there uneuphemistically. Those who aren't old often don't like to hear from those who are. We all like to pretend we're going to live forever, but we're not.

I have come to believe that we owe those who are old the right to talk about aging, and eventual death. No matter how uncomfortable it makes us. Because I'm going to be in that space sooner rather than later, I'd better start to change the culture from this side of the divide.

Glad to have you and your voice speaking out.
Gretchen said…
I so agree with these sentiments. I also think it really is an attitude, and one can age gracefully or with I'll will. This shows not only in the choices of what we wear, but how we comport ourselves, and how we treat others. No one wants to be the cranky "back in my day" or "get off my lawn" old fart, but I also worry about those who act as if age were something to be ashamed of (Goldie Hawn, sadly). A martini raised at 2:45 in honor of those who aren't able to join you, as well as in honor of those both ahead and behind you in age and wisdom, sounds like a good thing to me. Then again, I like martinis.
Unknown said…
As we say at my Zen Center - "impermanence surrounds us." Can't fight change of any kind.

You look way too cool in leather/scarf to ever be "wash and wear old."
Aging gracefully and graciously is what I aim to do...
you my dear are the epitome of grace.
Congratulations and might I be so bold as to suggest a fabulous kick ass piece of jewelry to mark the moment?

My girlfriend's mother who recently passed made a comment when she was touring the upscale seniors residence before she moved in...
"Oh God look at all those women wearing TABI outfits I cannot possibly move in here!"
Her daughter responded with "Of course you can mother someone has to show them how its done."
Duchesse said…
J.: That is exactly my feeling, savouring bittersweetness.

lagatta: Glad your friends give you optimism; it is a precious gift.

pseu: No, they don't, in either official language. And it makes me realize how much I dislike the term "65 years (or whatever) young" and being called dear", which I also was, twice this week.

Swissy: Thank you, I am buoyed by your thoughtfulness.

Susan: The friend I was thinking of was also named Susan; she wanted to live long enough to see her youngest child enter university, and she was able to do that.

Kathy Leeds: Health is the #1 priority, and I am a little surprised how much more conscious of that I and my friends have become.

LPC.: I *love* As Time Goes By, it's a welcome antidote to the many blogs that deny age and are written women trying so hard to fight every line. Ronni is not afraid to be political, tart or inconsistent. Death draws closer and I reflect on what comfort a believe in an after-life affords some. Unfortunately I'm skeptical.

Gretchen: Managed to hold off till 5:45, but I shall extend your permission to another occasion!

Artful: "Impermanence" is somehow more philosophical and comforting than the stark term "loss", which is the word I think of when I recall my friends who died too young. I feel better when I consider it as part of the impermanence of everything.

hostess: Reminds me of my mother, who initially opted into a very ritzy retirement home. Clothes were a huge deal, worse than high school. After a month or so she bailed and chose a nice but not grand place where she could wear what she liked.

materfamilias said…
Well, you look officially amazing and your attitude is officially inspiring! (perhaps having the young toyboy helps ;-)

With my 60th next year, I feel something shifting internally. Certain numbers do matter in ineffable, ephemeral ways. . .
Marsha said…
Yes, you do look quite wonderful - and not "for your age." I found this post inspiring, since it had never occurred to me to celebrate becoming eligible for my pension. I will probably follow your lead. Thank you.
I have finished washing, grating, tearing, cutting and asembling salad vegetables (a green salad of arugula and red Boston lettuce (Red Sox?), but with some earthier autumnal touches of a bit of julienned carrot, red cabbage, celeriac, red onion... and am off to buy a couple of bottles of wine! We are eating lamb chops - no vegetarian friends this time.

We are also celebrating the completion of my street - the roadwork seemed to be the only thing of permanence in the universe, alongside the proverbial death and taxes.
Mardel said…
You look wonderful!

I don't mind getting older, never have, still don't although I am a decade younger. Will I feel differently in 10 years? I don't think so. Being here is its own reward, why not celebrate it?

I find myself in this odd place at the moment, being at home with an older husband, most of the women I meet and spend time with are in their 60s or 70s and I am inspired and amazed by many of them
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: Yes, that helps ;) I also had my sons late, which has made some difference.

Marsha: Well, why not? Better than crying!

Mardel: Good to have models a decade ahead. My friends and I used to marvel at our mothers, how capable they were "at their age". Now we are there.
Anonymous said…
Congrats on making it to "old age"! And still being lively and vibrant (i'm assuming, based on your pictures and your writing). I'm a little ways behind you at 55, and admittedly atruggling a bit with the concept. I think my epiphany will be next fall, when my youngest leaves for college. I quit working a few years ago to take care of my elderly mom (who has since died) and my teenagers. So after the baby leaves the nest, I am completely free to do.....what? Traveling more with my husband on his more interesting business trips. But other than that, well, that's something to think about in the next year.

Oh, and regarding the Old Age language, I remember when I was pregnant with my first child at age 36; they wrote on my chart, "advanced maternal age". Geez. I hated that terminology!

---Jill Ann
Anonymous said…
I meant to say "struggling" , not "atruggling". Oh well. Plus I should note how much my mother HATED to be called "elderly".

And a major later-middle-age goal for me is to Dress Really Well. Even though I don't have a job to go to.

---Jill Ann
SewingLibrarian said…
What can I add except Welcome to the club! I admit to wondering what that MediCare card is doing in my wallet. You look great in that cool jacket and scarf! And I love your idea of buying a special something with your first check. Aren't we lucky, those of us who can afford to do that?
william said…
Duchesse, you look amazing and fabulous and you have so much kindness and joie de vivre! Not to mention great taste. I am so glad I know you through your blog. I am not far behind you at all and think we should all just enjoy-- and have a martini in the afternoon if we want to!

Duchesse said…
SewingLibrarian; Wish I could afford to spend all of it on the activities mentioned but there are limits. Have my eye on a silver pendant by a fave local artist (Red Sofa) that I can mix into my other pieces of hers. That seems symbolic, the mixing in. The form is an octopus' tentacle... which suggests tenacity.

Jil Ann: That's a major transition; hope you will tell us how it goes. As I recall you have also lost a lot of weight. Many changes chez toi. When my sons left home the house felt immense, like a monster home.

Francie: The vote for afternoon martinis has been recorded and will stand for posterity. I wish to say, lest friends are worried, that they are a *very* occasional treat and function most effectively that way.

Unknown said…
I collected my OAP(old age pension) as they call it here a few years ago along with my bus pass or aptly named "freedom pass". I don' really mind any of it. The freedom pass is great as it allows free travel round London.
Welcome to the club.
Must get my old blk leather jacket out.
Duchesse said…
Chicatanyage: Ha, "freedom pass"! I envision hordes of elders half-naked and drunk on the upper levels of buses, a Tom Jones scene.
Here, in best moderate Canadian manner, my bus pass is only half-price and I must wait till July- the birthday- to get my photo ID.
Anonymous said…
Duchesse, I love your blog and enjoy all your tips and tricks. But can I be candid? I am not trying to be nasty but just want to say something which no one else has been truthful enough to say. You good good, hair good clothes good. But those glasses add 10 years to your face. they are boring and old fashioned. Ditch them and get a more modern frame. There I've said it. Don't hate me. But I speak the truth. Sorry. Judith
Anonymous said…
Bumping up against officialdom can be bruising! Leave it to you to find the perfect mix of do-not-go-gentle rebellion in leather and silk, and charitable meditation on behalf of lost friends, to counteract the ache.

I'm just a bit behind you, turning 62 today. It's very possible that the photo of you looking so wonderful inspired my choice of a silk foulard skirt, cashmere sweater, high-heeled boots and leather jacket to wear to a wine-tasting dinner last night with my (also younger!) husband and friends, one of whom was celebrating 2 years cancer-free.

It's early morning; pulling the blind up to find the sun caught in the maples outside my window was like opening a treasure chest. I used to read Dylan Thomas's "Poem in October"--the one that begins "It was my thirtieth year to heaven"--every year on my birthday, until the gulf between "my thirtieth year" and my actual age began to widen alarmingly. I think I will read that poem again today, though, because it captures so perfectly the exhilaration of simply being alive among so much beauty.

Duchesse said…
Judith: The glasses (Kate Spade) are not quite 1.5 years old. One never knows how things strike others!

C.: Very happy birthday to you, and may you enjoy every second of this day and this year. I read once that how happy one is growing older is in direct proportion to how much one can enjoy the simplest things. In that case, you are all set.
Rubiatonta said…
Oh, Duchesse, what a great photo! You look sassy. Thank you for sharing your journey with us all.
Murphy said…
Actually, i quite like your glasses: they suit you face shape. A chacun son gout!
dana said…
Hello Duchesse, you look amazing, and I'm very much in some wash n wear years here at 43. You and Pseu and Mater maybe fulfill some sort of parental guidance role for me? I don't know. My mom turned 67 this weekend and we celebrated with my young kids. I remember her parents who on retirement slid into what I termed their "decadent lifestyle" -- late to rise, shopping, preparation of a big midday meal with wine throughout, late light supper, lots of music and PBS. I believe there may have been an afternoon nap in there. He continued to play trumpet, she would sew, they made food the slow way to their personal tastes and enjoyed every bite. I always heard about their working years, up at 5 and work on Saturdays in the 30s and 40s, so I knew they'd earned their decadence! Just a long way of saying you go for that martini. Your commitment to meaningful donations is inspiring, too. Best
Duchesse said…
dana: I'd enjoy everything but the wine at lunch (it wipes out anything I'd want to do in the afternoon). Your grandparents lived in the way they'd planned and waited for.

Decadence is defined as "luxurious self indulgence". There will not be the financial resources for many in my age group to live decently, let alone luxuriously, given the stats I read on savings.
barbara said…
Oh, you don't have to be grumpy.
You are how we say here, ein Gesamtkunstwerk.
Tash said…
You're certainly not old. You are hipper than both your son and I combined :)

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