Big Boat Man needed to get a physical last year when his heavy truck license came due. Society doesn’t really like old men in charge of big machinery unless they still have all their faculties. Fair enough. So in he goes. A nurse politely asks the usual questions like the date, who is prime minister, and then asks him to draw the face of a clock. As in? Yes, what does the face of a clock look like? A circle? Yes, and can you place the numbers 12, 3, 6 and 9 on the face of that clock? Now can you draw the hands of the clock so that it says 10.30?
BBM says that by this time he was not sure whether to start play acting like he was doddery or go with the flow. He wanted the license so he went with the flow. He found the entire experience patronising and belittling of someone of his mental capacities. At the time we discussed the test itself and whether the nurses or administrators were trained in the testing methodology or if they were just going down through a checklist. Upon very little investigation we discovered that only a handful of people in New Zealand are actually trained professionals in administering the test. We observe that this test will have to change drastically since the next generation may be deemed loopy when they draw a square digital output for the clock face.
So this year, BBM gets another notice that he is due for another physical check because he is turning 75 years old. This is his regular driving license which requires him to go through the same cognitive test and physical checks. We discuss how he is going to approach the process this time. Now that he knows the format of the test, we joke that he could take a cheat sheet in his pocket. Upon being asked to draw the clock face, he could, with serious face, make a production of drawing the prepared sheet of paper out of his pocket. Then, calmly state, ‘Yes, I’m prepared for the test this time. I’ve already drawn the clock face with the numbers.’ Needless to say, we were both quickly in tears of laughter at the possibilities of how the nurse would politely ensure the efficacy of the test.
BBM then went to the official licensing agency where he was concerned that his right eye could not make out the final line in the letters. His left eye could. This reminds me of his hearing test. Did they test your hearing again this year? No, last year it was perfect. So why can’t you hear me when I talk to you? It must be a wife thing, maybe the pitch of your voice is too high for normal hearing at my age.
I admit I was relieved to see that he was wearing hearing and sight protection when he was cutting the outside notches for Herald II. Aging appears to help with health and safety compliance.
We have also found that aging changes what we find funny. It is now hilarious to us how young people rush around and think that what they are doing is so important. Give them fifty years and they’ll realise that they are chasing their tails. What’s more, no one cares that they are chasing their tails. Everyone watches the activity and draws their own conclusions. But those of us with age? We watch them chase their tails.
I suspect a lot of what is happening is that we are finally getting close to exactly what our priorities are. Hurrying is not one of our priorities. It’s not even close. These days hurrying is what happens when we eat something we knew intuitively was going to make us hurry. In the grander scheme of things these days, if we get there early, we have a wine while we wait. If we get there late, well, we are aging after all and these things are to be expected. Life is so much more enjoyable when there is not only an absence of needing an excuse for whatever we do, but an absence of caring whether or not whatever we do makes sense to others.
It is a space of building a boat because you feel like it. Not because you are young and going to wow others with your accomplishment. It is a space of standing back and looking at what is emerging, and nodding your head to agree with the result of hours of thinking and physical activity.
As BBM’s wife, I find this aging thing is a space of communally finding joy in the chickens who follow him everywhere in the hope that he has wheat in his pockets. It is a space of celebrating when measurements match what they should be. I find myself agreeing that he is a grumpy old man sometimes. But where is the pleasure in life if one cannot be grumpy when it feels good and righteous to be grumpy? These young people with their digital clock faces and rushed lifestyles. What are they going to realise is a priority for them when they are 75?
I’m finding that humour in everyday life is non-stop these days. Is it because we are noticing and enjoying the everyday events more? The other day I watched as our cat marked the wood bin when BBM set it outside. It was if to say, yes, this is ours and no one is going to take it. Then Brynn brought wood up yesterday and made the comment that the wood bin smelled like cat. Now that you mention it… Hilarious her reaction.
Which reminds me of a story her uncles told me when I was visiting this year. When Brynn was there last Summer she rode along on a motorcycle tour. They had communications among the riders through the helmets. The others on the ride were amused one day when a bird pooped a huge blob on the windshield of the motorcycle she was on. They had a running commentary through the headsets, ‘Oh, eeew. Oh! It’s coming up! No, No, No! Eeeew! Eyeeew! It’s coming over! No, No, No!’ She was watching the wind blow the poop up the windshield and then realised it was going to come over the top. Anticipating that it was going to blow back into their faces, she was hanging on to her uncle and leaning with her body almost entirely off the back of the motorcycle to avoid the spray. The poop came over the top of the windshield and slowly worked it’s way back down the inside. ‘Oh that’s gross! That’s disgusting!’ Evidently that was the tamest story from the trip. Her uncles simply have huge grins on their faces when they say that she provided a lot of entertainment for them.
Back to priorities. Today we went out to lunch, ordered dessert and coffees. On our way out, BBM explains to the young man that people prefer hot coffees with their dessert. There are two ways to do this, firstly heat the cups before making the coffees, and serve the hot coffee at the same time as the dessert. Otherwise the coffee is cold by the time the dessert comes. The young man thanks him for his advice. Yes, well, this is the benefit of being older and knowing these things. We unashamedly acknowledge that one of our priorities is drinking good hot coffee. The other is laughing.