By Alice Richardson, 77. Elizabeth, SA
The winter tree stands naked; exposed; vulnerable. It remembers the beauty of spring; fragrant colourful blossoms, sparkling green leaves, the warmth of summer, the birds that nested amongst its foliage and the tiny fledgling’s insistent ‘hungry’ chirps demanding food. They flutter and venture further and further from the nest, watched by their anxious parents – will they survive? The tree stands alone again, losing everything it had – life and joy and colour all gone. Silence, stillness, emptiness and loneliness took their place.
I once was that tree.
He wanted a mistress as well as a wife. Sorry, his plan didn’t suit me at all. I was shattered. I felt naked, humiliated, exposed, vulnerable. I‘d lost everything. My home, garden, friends, security, plans and hopes for the future. He wanted someone ‘younger’. I wish I had punched him in his ‘couldn’t care less’ face. I couldn’t stand living in the same town as he did with the new ‘love of his life’, so I moved back to my hometown where my family roots were.
I cried every night for weeks. I felt hollow inside, like an empty snail shell. I remembered the Beatles song “Will you still need me, Will you still feed me, When I’m 64?” There would be no one to need me, or feed me when I was 64. Sometimes you have to take what you get, and sometimes you get what you take. I decided that life was not over for me at 64.
I joined a rock choir for over 65’s, became a rock star singing “Eagle Rock” on You Tube at 67. I attended an art class and sold nine paintings. I joined a theatre group, performing in several local stage productions (one an Adelaide Fringe Festival award winner).
At 71, I considered a tattoo. My elder son advised to not get just a ‘pretty’ one. I decided on a tiger on my shoulder whom I named “Yong Gun” meaning “Brave, Courageous”, hoping the brave and courageous spirit of the tiger might work a bit of magic in me.
At 74 I joined a Boxfit class, wrote and recently published a children’s story book. At the same time I joined a Tae Kwon Do martial arts group. I loved it. It went well until I damaged my left knee doing side kicks. I achieved Yellow Belt status but, sadly, had to give it up after damaging my knee. I still belong to the Boxfit class and really love it. My nickname is ‘Thumper’.
I ride public transport for free! I go to Glenelg on the tram, paddle in the seawater, sit in Moseley Square eating fish and chips while being harangued by pesky seagulls; I get senior’s discount; I hug gorgeous, virile young men and everybody smiles and thinks “Oh, isn’t that sweet”. I can have a spoon or two of whiskey in my morning porridge. If I want to stay in bed until nine in the morning, I can; I don’t ever have to go to work again! If I get lost, I can put on my “little old grey-haired lady face” and people help me. So many advantages of being older.
Yes, at 77, I am in my “Winter” years and for humans, “Summers” don’t come back. But my tree of life is absolutely blooming. Leaves that fall from the tree are not wasted. They provide compost and enrichment for the soil, channeling new energy and fulfillment.
Old? I don’t know what that’s really like yet.