I have grown old and didn’t notice until now.

The last time I wrote a blog post, which was several months ago, I’d finally left my parent’s house where I’d ended up living for an incredible eight years and was recuperating with friends in Spain. The Queen had just died and it really did seem like the end of an era on so many levels. And that’s how it’s turned out for me.

I spent nearly two months staying with friends and family, saying goodbye to everyone before I headed off to Australia to see whether I could pick up the pieces of my life here – or not. That’s still an on-going project though I will say there’ve been some really great highs and some equally dismal lows and those lows are far from being resolved.

What I’m only just realising is the affect this move has had on me. Before I left the UK, people said to me: you’re brave to go all that way across the world, at your age. I always answered: I have no choice. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up in Australia. I left them loose mainly because I never expected to be away so long! But of course, I did want to come back here. I lived here a long time and, at the very least, I wanted to see my old friends.

But the truth is, I never felt as if I were too old for this adventure. I knew I wasn’t a spring chicken; I knew I wasn’t as strong as I used to be, or have as much energy, but as I don’t drive, I’ve always walked quite a bit out of necessity; I do my T’ai Chi, and eat a healthy diet. A few friends in the UK mentioned I was getting a bit hunched over, but I thought that was merely to do with the stress of caring for mum.

Perhaps it was leaving what had been my comfort zone. Of course, at the time I didn’t see it like that. I saw it as the place I needed to leave. But since I’ve been in Australia, perhaps because life is more outdoors, or perhaps because I’ve left a place where there are a high proportion of elderly retirees and now have to negotiate spaces where there are a mix of people, and am having to learn how things work here and find out stuff from people who are nearly young enough to be my grandchildren let alone my children! Or perhaps I’m looking around me more because I don’t know where I’m going. And perhaps there are just more mirrors, but I’ve been suddenly struck by the fact that the person people are talking to, isn’t a vaguely older woman, but actually quite an old lady.

When I arrived here, I’d hurt my back, had a chest infection and was quite under the weather. My back is still pretty bad and I’ve a feeling that issues I’ve had all my life and vaguely ignored are finally making themselves noticed. And I can’t deny that all the negative stuff I’ve had to sort out has worn me down, in spite of all the good things that have helped to balance them out. But the other night, I couldn’t sleep and suddenly I thought the thought which must be blindingly obvious to everyone else but had apparently escaped my notice: that during all those years of looking after mum, and being in the Covid lockdowns, and packing up and travelling out here, I’ve actually grown older myself.

Having parents who lived to a great age no doubt made a difference, because while they’re alive one does to some extent remain a daughter. An elderly relative once said to me: You’re Frank’s girl, aren’t you? And yes, in my heart, that’s what I am: my dad’s girl. But my dad’s been dead for more than twelve years; my mother’s been dead for nearly four, and I myself am shocked to realise how hunched over I’ve become, and how much height I’ve lost. Some women think they become crones at fifty. I thought that was crazy and had no intention of claiming that status. But now, a couple of decades down the track, I think it’s time I accepted it.

I’m glad I’ve come to this realisation. It’ll help me make a series of decisions that I need to make in the near future. And it’s important I make the right ones. It’s not like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, because I had no choice but to take that mouthful, but it’s been almost more than I can cope with. Or so I felt, but maybe I’ve been looking at things from the wrong perspective.


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