A day or two ago, I listened to someone talking about the end time – her time. It wasn’t morbid or sad, nor was it straightforward or simple, but I caught it in
She was acknowledging the last part of her life. Not the end, the last part. That chapter before the full stop, with no more punctuation or words to follow. She talked of coming to terms with not making plans too far ahead, and looking at sell-by dates with a smile.
She had fallen in love for the ‘third and last time.’ She had dreaded it happening again, and so late.
One’s sixties was, if any time was certain, this was certainly the time to avoid any notion of that sickening ‘in-love’ deprivation of all other feelings for anybody or creature – else. Only those things they shared were all that mattered. In-love: the overwhelming, the euphoria, the laughter, the new sheer beauty of everything around, every sensation, smell, sight and sound of the old/new/familiar, the long walks, shared puddings and those bed-raggled days. That irrational but, at once, perfectly stable insanity, embracing the upheaval of rhyme, reason and duty fully, without a second thought.
It is the ‘best of all possible worlds’ and the worst – of course.
The ragged end to her last long affair had been, because of the lives it touched, an ill-forgotten 14 years earlier.
While she had enjoyed and suffered the usual suspect dalliances between, ‘too many to keep count’, without boast or shame – she had spent all those years alone, dipping in and out here and there to keep the peace with herself, to keep her desire alive and to stave off loneliness or submit to its deep hole. She could pick and choose from the more interesting of what was left out there. Bearing in mind most English men over 50, pass-out. They are in no state, dull, useless or parlous, and dressed to fit.
So this new dread was a beautiful, warm surprise. She embraced it to the brim.
Not miserable or over philosophical, she seemed to be just collecting thoughts, literally collecting them out loud in some kind of dissembled order.
I had listened to a 68 year old looking carefully for the first time, at the last phase of her life. How it looks and feels not to plan ahead – with or without this last love of her life.
It was a freezing night, walking past The Bull. There was a sign in the window, I didn’t stop to stare, but it reminded me of that sell-by date and how as teen-kids me and my brother would be instantly saddened by a poster for a big-name band coming to the Villa Marina.
It wasn’t the gig we cared about. It was the date on the poster. It was to be the day after we would have had to sail back home. Back to a flat grey city with no trees, the end of that one tiny week in endless bright green countryside as big as the sky. Outside the other endless 51 (weeks left) meant we would not be free to run, climb and jump, those longed for trees, hills and streams again until… the day we would find our own.
So in the times-up dept, there are no sell-by dates, no plans too far ahead, no second glance. Easy.
If like her, you’ve had that one new precious taste of it all when you had nothing left to lose, then whatever that short tomorrow brings, apart from your ‘masterpiece unsigned’ you have shared everything and missed nothing.
So to debunk: ‘live life like it’s your last five minutes’. Better to have taken the time to live, love and lose than to have missed all three in a rush to beat your own sell-by date.
Happy birthday brother John. Here’s to our own found lovers and families and all the trees, hills and streams we have jumped… in different landscapes – together.
‘Ashridge House: The immortal sky painted huge above this year’s short lived lawn snow…’