There is little more calculated to slap you in the face with reminders of your age and mortality than family gatherings – and I mean that in both a good and a bad way.
Last weekend I attended the wedding of a niece – inevitably a joyous and chaotic occasion as these always are – at which, at various points, I came face to face with these simultaneously harsh but also comforting truths.
I had arrived, as we humans do, regarding myself as an eternal thirty year old and then the next morning, viewing the efforts of those who had been snapping away with their cameras or smartphones the night before, had to confront the reality.
Amidst the images of my contemporaries and elders looking exactly as they are, I was somewhat shocked by those of a vaguely-familiar but somewhat dishevelled old gent who turned out to be yours truly.
But hey, that’s life!
Much of what makes the world go around is grounded in the battlefield we all inhabit in which the struggle between seeking to stave off the ravages of time and the alternative (of just accepting them and relaxing into the stage of life we have reached) is fought out.
It may be a sizable jump but here a reference to Tiger Woods’ triumph in the US Masters at Augusta on Sunday evening seems appropriate. To win this particular Major eleven years after his last one – and fifteen after he last donned the green jacket at Augusta – was an extraordinary achievement in the context of everything that he has been through in that time.
It is being hailed as one of the greatest comebacks ever in golf and indeed in any sport – and it probably is. Never mind the descent and rise of his personal stock off the golf course, which in itself probably also qualifies as one of the greatest comebacks of all time, his recovery from his long-term injury woes to a point where he could play golf again at all, let alone at any elite level of substance, is surely a remarkable thing.
Whether he can feed off the momentum and eventually challenge Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major victories is now a matter in the lap of the gods.
This is probably a comment reflecting the stage of life that I have reached, perhaps also laced with a character-weakness-revealing aspect of my personality, but – if I was Tiger Woods, which of course I am not – part of me would probably now wait for a while (a week?) and then announce my retirement from the game I loved.
Better – in my eyes – to quit the stage at a moment of utter triumph than struggle on against the odds against all the younger, fitter and ‘freer-from-injury niggles’ guys coming behind and then have to announce a retirement date that will become more difficult to choose with every passing day on the road to Palookaville.
At Saturday’s wedding, now retired from my own days of tearing up the dancefloor to the great soul classics of the 1960s and 1970s, I spent a good deal of time beholding the horde of young professionals boogying energetically into the night.
As I did so – enjoying the spectacle – I could not help but recall the long-ago hazy summer days when my nieces and my own kids were playing happily and innocently together upon the lawn as five, six or nine year olds.
How time passes.
The opportunity to consider the fortunes of my offspring, now in their mid-thirties, came to me as I chatted, albeit with a degree of difficulty because my hearing these days against the background cacophony of a highly-amplified six-piece band prevented me catching every word, with my daughter and son-in-law.
Grace – whom, with allowances made for parental delusion, is an intelligent and highly-driven individual with two degrees and a 2.1 in the solicitor’s exams behind her – has recently undertaken an advocacy module at which she did well. She announced on Saturday that she had decided to switch careers to the law. This was something of a revelation. When she was on the cusp of leaving school I had suggested a legal career to her but at that time it was the last thing she wished to consider. Now she wants to do it – in due course we shall see how she fares in this quest.
Meanwhile Barry my son – having wintered in the Caribbean in command of his latest yacht – was unable to get back to the UK for the wedding because he and his crew of seven are in the final stages of preparing for a demanding ocean crossing upon which they will embark this week at a moment of his choosing, having taken account of the prevailing weather conditions.
It’s a funny old world, an aspect of which is seeing your kids – if you have them, of course – conducting their lives in locations and ways that one had never seriously considered for oneself. And being damned proud of them.
Even in your late sixties, I guess, you never stop learning or growing up.