Monthly Archives: January 2010

A Question of Age

Over the break, I have visited family and caught up with some friends. People keep asking me what it is like to be studying with people so much younger than me. Well. Sometimes I notice and sometimes I don’t. After all, what is age? Just a number. That said, for most of my life, most of my friends have been older than me. Hanging out with people younger than my favourite fridge magnet has been new and different.

I’m not the oldest person in my year, but I guess I’m close to it. Again, though, what is age? A fellow student born the same year as me is less mature, less together, less worldly, less wise, than half the students two thirds her age. At med school, my closest friends and the people I enjoy hanging out with the most range from a few years younger than me, to twelve, thirteen years younger. So what? Nothing. We’re at uni, I forget we’re not the same age… most of the time.

Sometimes though, it hits me. Last week I had a birthday and now I’m officially mid-to-late thirties. So hanging out with people in their early-to-mid twenties, yeah, ok, I’m the old lady. I forget that. I’m not sure if it matters. It is what it is.

Sometimes it’s a case of been there, done that, can’t be bothered doing it again. Sometimes I wonder if I’m trying to recapture something of my past. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m embarking on my third career. That I’m starting out at the bottom of the ladder again. I can’t believe I no longer have an income. That my dad just gave me money for clothes. I find myself talking about things I did ten, twenty years ago. Relieved that I’m not going through all the things people go through in their twenties. Going through all the things people go through in their mid-to-late thirties instead.

I don’t have kids, and it’s getting to the point that I probably never will. I have a mortgage and a long-term partner and various critters. I own art and shares and a car and we have not yet drunk the cellar. I have a gold amex, a vegie garden and a chunk of the Berlin Wall. I have not yet started drinking cask wine. I listen to ABC radio and triplej in a 5:1 ratio. I remember the Cold War and the first Gulf War. I’m not ‘old enough to be your mother’, but we could probably date.

So, in answer to the question. I have learned a lot from people younger than me this last year, and I have relied heavily on people younger than me for friendship, support and advice. My grandmother tells me that her best friends have been people ten years her junior, so there’s nothing new in this. Most of the time, I don’t think about it, and when I do, it doesn’t matter. Don’t let something as intangible and irrelevant as age put you off starting something new.

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I Love it When…

My dad makes pancakes. The words just flow. An avocado is perfectly green inside. I know things I didn’t know I knew. Exactly the right tools are on hand. A full rack of tiles is played on a triple word score. The balance of light and dark is just right. The dog barks in his sleep. You tell me how you feel, even if it makes me sad. The moon is huge. I find old notes. Everyone in the photo looks just how they’d like to. He laughs at the punchline before he’s delivered it. Clothes I like are heavily discounted. I know I’ve done a good job. Friends succeed. Everyone leaves and the house is quiet. The engine just purrs. I dodge a bullet. The cat curls into my arm. There is unexpected money in my pocket. The curve of you fits in my hand. Love wins out and happiness ensues.

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I Don’t Like it When…

Men think I know nothing about cars. I get cat fur on dark clothing. Water gets up my nose. My printer won’t work without a colour cartridge even though I want to print in black. Fruit squishes in my uni bag. People are jerks to my friends. Plane trees start spitting their pollen out. Kevin Rudd delivers ridiculous faux-slang in his speeches and remarks. The library closes early. I am forced to eat tinned lychees. I’ve just had a shower and I’m sweating before I’m dressed. The plane is landing and my ears won’t pop. Flies hide in my coffee. Things that I should have eaten go off in the fridge. I put things in my diary at the wrong time and miss appointments. I’m in a competition and I don’t even know it. I’m halfway through a thought and I get interrupted and forget it. I can’t find my glasses. I know I’ve been flaky. I know I’m about to get done over and I can’t do anything about it. I am unintentionally cruel. I can’t remember the words. People don’t take risks when they should, and do take risks when they shouldn’t. My wardrobe malfunctions.

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Was it Thursday?

I took a long train trip on New Year’s Day to visit my grandma for a few days. My Pa passed away two years ago, on New Year’s Eve, and I can almost think of him without tears forming. In my adult life, Pa has been and will always be my point of reference for ethics. Some people have the front page test; I have the Pa test.

I took the train with childlike anticipation. I have a baggage-free relationship with my Ma. She and Pa have always just simply been my grandparents; they have been a refuge and a comfort and a source of unconditional love.

Ma is in her eighties now and has been teaching kids with learning disabilities to read since the day she retired. She is small and feisty and fiercely independent. She doesn’t know it, but she gave me the name for this blog. She is funny and quick and smart as hell. She is also increasingly confused.

Last year she stepped backwards off a ladder because she thought she was on the bottom rung. One crushed vertebra; amazingly lucky. She forgets she is cooking dinner. She forgets to eat – though, in her defence, I do this too. She has taken to writing everything down in a book by the phone, and in a calendar/planner, but lately she has been writing things on the wrong date. Or forgetting to write them down at all. Or forgetting where she wrote them. She forgets to go to bed, and falls asleep at the table.

This has been creeping up, and she has been busily building routines and systems to compensate. Without Pa it’s been more obvious – but it also provided an excuse for a while so no one could fault her memory. It’s the grief! But these last few days she’s actually admitted that she’s forgetting things, and that it bothers her.

She’s a week or two overdue for her monthly B12 shot, and I’m sure that’s playing a part in her tiredness and in her confusion. But I’m not deluding myself that this is the full explanation. I am scared for her and I love her and I don’t know how to help.

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I’m sure I’m not the only person to start the new year locked out of the house wearing, well, nothing at all. My point of difference here is sobriety.

I looked at the dog. He looked at me. I tried the door again. Definitely locked from the inside. The car had long left the driveway, bearing the culprit to work.

First things first: back to the laundry, where my recently-removed clothing had indeed already started into the wash cycle. The dog and I took stock. Worst case scenario, we’d be stuck out here for say, five hours. And the dog food was on our side of the door.

Our assets: My brain. His bark. An unlocked window. An unlocked garage. Clean clothes on the line.

Our liabilities: My brain. His bark. My torn calf muscle.

We agreed that a walk to the police station would be our plan of last resort.

We set to work with a ladder and brute force. This failed to fully dislodge the flyscreen from the window. Our retreat to the garage yielded a strange metal spiky thing, which was used to effect a full opening of the window, thus allowing the screen to be removed.

The dog and I looked at the window. So inviting and yet so far from the top of the ladder. Being the taller of the two, I volunteered for the first attempt. Headfirst? Leg first? Our liabilities were working against us.

With some unusual biomechanics, I made it in through the window without getting any part of my body in the litter tray or the toilet. Success!

The dog waited outside the window for me to pull him up the ladder. He’s not dumb, that dog.

I’ve counted back through the years, and so far, this is the best new year’s day ever: French toast, nudity, ingenuity, dexterity, aplomb.

May the rest of 2010 proceed in a similar fashion.

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