A Pulitzer-winning novel saw deeply into the problem with age. Wisdom is yours only after you’ve lived it. That being said, I’ve recently turned sixty and can look back, but also forward.

“Forty can’t tell twenty about this; that’s the pity of it! Twenty can find out by getting to be forty.”

The quote is from a 1918 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington. It was also made into a film in 1942 by Orson Welles. I was sharing lunch with a friend recently and as we were discussing the quote, and knowing that I was turning 60 the next day, my friend said to me “and forty can only find out by getting to be sixty.”

I started to reflect on this and how life is such a wonderful teacher. It can continue to teach us when our minds, hearts and souls are open to its teachings no matter our age. My father went to hospital Christmas night when I was 17 and he did not come home. I was missing Dad more when I was 42 than when I was 20. At 20 I was no longer a teenager and really didn’t require the wisdom of others but in 1999 at the age of 42 I was struggling with a life journey. I was travelling and so would have loved to have my father in my life at that time. Dad would have been 80 and to have had his wisdom to call on would have made that journey a lot easier. I did survive and got through that time as I did not want to be a victim; it became the making of me, like a rebirth, and at times I think my journey an inspiration to others.

Here I am today at 60. I have just come back from collecting my Seniors Card. I might have a card to say I’m a senior but it is hard to comprehend that I have reached this milestone in my life. I have a passion for life but now at a slightly slower pace. If I decide I’d like to go back and work part time I don’t want to be thought of as “too old”. Those who are considered seniors still have a lot to offer not only as a volunteer but in the paid workforce as well.

Today I may no longer be a son to parents who are alive or a work colleague, but today I’m still a husband, dad, stepdad, granddad, brother, uncle, great uncle, neighbour and friend, and I love all of those parts of me. They are not roles we play, but part of who we are. We can’t forget that and not leave it to funerals, weddings, Christmases and birthdays to pay attention to the value of family and friends.

Also on The Big Smoke

I am very blessed with friends all with their own unique connection to me whether it be from work, church, travelling or school. In one of my groups of friends there is six of us who were in primary school together. I met the other five in first class in 1964. We get together for dinner about six times a year and have so much fun. The wives come along once a year to find out why we all speak so passionately about our little group. One of my friends was coming to one of our dinners one night when a 20-something work colleague of his said “why do you want to catch up with guys you were in primary school, what do you talk about?” My friend replied “what we did when we were eight of course.” We all know it’s more, something that can only be measured by a friendship that has lasted 53 years.

Hearing the words “Dad”, “Uncle Peter”, “GD Pete (Grandad)”, “this is my husband”, “this is my brother”, “this is my friend”, makes my heart skip a beat, and when I get to introduce someone in my life I do it with joy, as they mean more to me than I can put into words.

I look back now and realise how young Dad was when he passed away at 55 and how young Mum at 48 was when she lost Dad. At 17 I didn’t give thought to Dad being too young to pass away. My pain was that I no longer had my dad in my life. I thought Mum at 48 was too old to meet someone else and one day remarry – after all she was my mum, mums don’t remarry. Mum didn’t remarry but lovingly devoted her life to me, my three sisters and her grandchildren. Here I am at 60, remarried nearly four years ago, and have learnt those lessons by getting to 40 and getting to 60.

What lessons ahead of me are now to be learnt by getting to 80? Let the journey continue.


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