Chapter 12 The Grey and the Gold
By Chris Wilson
You’ve sown your wild oats, found out about and intermingled with the opposite sex, got married, had kids and somehow survived your marriage and their teenage years, and, finally, you have managed to persuade your kids to leave home, so what are now going to do with the rest of your life? In plain and simple English what in God’s name are you going to do now? You are still alive, you may or may not wake up every morning with a partner snoring beside you, but now once you are both awake you suddenly realise that not only is a new dawn is breaking, but a new age is about is about to begin. That’s right, you’ve hit the pivotal age of fifty, but something inside tells you that fresh troubles are about to arise.
For some married couples, such an age represents a wonderful realisation of all their dreams, for others a grim sense of foreboding and desperate emptiness fills the air. For most of us mortals however, reality lies somewhere in between. Whatever group we belong to though several stark realities faces us all. For the first time in years we have got to either talk to or at least live with someone beside us, when there is probably no one else around, We have to face up to the fact that our bodies, and possibly our minds might be going, or already have gone, down the drain, and finally we have to let complete strangers poke, prod, squeeze and scrape extremely private bits of our anatomy which we feel are ours and ours alone. Under such circumstances what do we do, both as individuals and as couples, how should we best cope with such a period of change. Let’s go back to Bob and Sue, maybe they can give us a clue as to how such things might be done.
We rejoin Bob and Sue when, for the first time in years, they are actually alone and enjoying a sustained period of peace and calm. The years have been kind to them both and, somewhat unusually, it has been a good marriage that even now has stood the test of time. They have balanced the books both financially and emotionally, but as far as they are concerned they have gained one other major prize, and that is getting rid of the kids and launching them into a life of their own. They love their kids of course, but having successfully, if rather painstakingly turfed them out of the house, and largely out of their bank account, both Bob and Sue are now reflecting, quite seriously, on a new problem that is to haunt them for the remainder of their days.
For the first time in marriage they are both alone in the house, and free from the chaotic planning that marked their early years. They have been dreaming of this moment for years, but now that such a time has arrived they almost find themselves at a loss for words. Looking at each other over the breakfast table there is a sudden realisation that the old topics of marriage days, children, and career advancement are now done and dusted, and that new replacement topics will have to be found. Mercifully for both of them such areas lie fairly close to hand, as they are able to pick up the pieces from many years ago, and exhume their interest in sports, clubs, and travelling abroad, but they soon realise that such activities can only be partially enjoyed or pursued.
When they first engaged in such activities life was one tremendous whirl. If they weren’t racing around the tennis courts, or whacking golf balls over immeasurable distances, they were dancing the nights away in the clubs off their choice. Holidays were adventure playgrounds where abseiling, rock climbing, and après ski binge drinking were the norm, but it is all so very different now as their bodies no longer wish to behave. When they play tennis it is not only the net cord that sags in the middle, Saga and Shearings holiday brochures now clog up the letterbox, meals at home seem preferable to restaurants, and as regards clubbing the night away, what a ridiculous notion that has become. Now they hate the music, loathe their so much younger and so much fitter younger clubbers, and after ten at night all they want to do is to go home to a mug of cocoa, put their feet up, stroke the family cat, and then hibernate beneath their king sized thick duvet before snoring the night away.
There is however one advantage of getting old, and that is the opportunity of boring your children and other youngsters to death and, in the process, inventing a past with associated glories that few of the listeners can deny. There are many ways to describe the behaviour of individuals during this period in their lives, but very often this is when men and women become both old and extremely grumpy. This is the game that any aged grumpy can play, and if the opportunity presents itself it can go on for hours. All you need is a room or space where you can waffle, a captive audience that has to listen to you, and a huge stock of vaguely anecdotal memories, none of which need ever be true.
Nobody is going to argue with you as those who are younger than you butter you up, or humour you, for a slice of inheritance that they hope one day to enjoy, while others of your own age, or older, are playing, and enjoying, precisely the same game. Now it is Bob and Sue’s turn to play such a game, and they are enjoying it to the full. Their darling children have been giving them Hell for years, so now they are going to have their revenge. Bob peppers Adrian with tales of his long gone golden childhood and noble adolescence, while Sue bores Danni to death by moaning about modern morality and the degenerate state of the youth of today. Finally they come together to sing the classic chorus of the good old days when boys were boys, girls were girls, and when everything was priced at tuppence a pound. It’s all a load of rubbish of course, but as they had to endure such nonsense from their parents, why should they now miss out on all the fun.
If only their bodies were having as much fun as their minds. Regrettably, for both of them this is not so, for even if they had forgotten that they were fifty, their bodies are certainly letting them know. Sue has left the room for the moment so, let’s have a chat with Bob and see how he is getting on.
As far as Bob is concerned he is absolutely fed up. During the last twenty-five years he feels that he has done his bit and a whole lot more, so now he so now he is somewhat annoyed when his body refuses to play ball. Not only that he now finds himself in the position whereby an ever growing band of medics want to mess around with a certain area of his body which he regards as very private indeed. Up until now it has been Sue’s misfortune to be poked, prodded, scraped and manhandled in the lower abdominal area, and he has always urged her to undergo such painful procedures, but now it is his turn he is not quite so keen to go.
He is quite prepared to accept his baldness, and his middle aged spread, as he believes that both give him a noble almost patriarchal appearance which is suitable for someone of his age and position within the family, but as regards a stranger closely examining his nether regions that, as far as he is concerned, seems several steps too far. That is one set of prodding, poking, inserting ting, groping, and testicular handling too far. He has tried to keep his views hidden from Sue of course, as well as his increased frequency and slightly sluggish urinal flow, but he is increasingly aware of her thoughtful yet penetrating glances, and her careful leaflet distribution, so he knows that soon, all too soon, such examinations and physical humiliations must inevitably come occur
What is also annoying him is the fact Sue seems to be in denial about both her age and all the changes that the years have undoubtedly rung in, especially as he is painfully aware of how both their bodies are no longer quite as attractive, or as healthy, as once they were. He has not discussed this last factor with Sue of course, but then what man would ever wish to do so. He may be a man, he may be, at times, as thick as two short planks, but not even he is that stupid. He knows there must be a way to broach both issues though, and he feels that now is the time for them to be aired and resolved, so after watching her come back into the room, he takes a deep breath and prepares for the battle that he feels must inevitably occur.
Fortunately for Bob this battle will not occur. It is there to be fought, all the combatants are ready, waiting, and fully armed on the battlefield; but there cannot be a battle if, by a pre-emptive strike, one side is left absolutely helpless and without any ground to fight on. Such is the case on this occasion, for Sue has been watching Bob very carefully and, appointment card in hand, she knows exactly how this delicate period in their relationship is going to be resolved. At this stage in her life she is like many women that surround her, and in no sense is she in denial.
She is very much aware that her body is beginning to show signs of wear and tear, especially when her tight breasted, slim hipped, non cellulite, smooth skinned daughter is smugly standing beside her, and even more aware that she’s not only failing the mammary pencil test, but she can hold rolling pin down up there as well. She knows that is only natural aging, and she knows that her daughter will undoubtedly follow her down the line; but she still wishes such factors would bugger off and leave her alone All is not lost though, as after a quiet word with her mother, she is fully aware that she still has formidable powers that she can use. Luckily for her the menopause has quietly come and gone, so quietly that Bob wasn’t even aware that it had arrived, but now as she looks at Bob she knows that it is time to open up, and in doing so to once more take control.
During the first few years of her marriage Sue saw Bob as a lean fit powerful lion who, stamping and spraying all around his patch, left a clear mark for all to see. In his eyes, he was the king of the mound that he had chosen to create, populate and then defend. It is true that she always knew that his bark was far worse than his bite, and that if truth be told he was a little dim-witted at times, but such displays were always useful as she both could concentrate on bringing up the kids, and have a pretty good time as well. What is also true though, is that even before they got engaged let alone spliced, she recognised a deeper, quieter, yet more powerful side to Bob, and that is the side she happily embraces now.
Of course she recognises that there are stronger guys floating still sniffing around her, as she’s still not really past her prime; and part of her still recalls the flash and the dash of so many years ago, but she is older now, and therefore even she knows that different values must inevitably come into play. As she has grown older, so has her lion, and like so many in her position, she actually likes what she sees.
He may no longer be lean and fit, his mane may be in decline, and his roar might have dropped to a disgruntled growl, but Sue loves him all the same. They still have fun at times, but now, lying like two old but much loved slippers on a bottom shelf of a well-used shoe rack, she knows that both of then are ready to drift through the quieter times to come. They may be old, they may be dusty, and they are definitely down at heel compared to the flashy shoes and boots above them, but at least they are still together which is a damn sight more than can be said for many of their friends and acquaintances around them.
So the pattern is set in this marriage, as in many marriages, for the next ten to fifteen years, and what we see is a richly interwoven yet delicately coloured cloth that though battered and slightly frayed by time and experience still has a story to tell Does this mean that she is going to give Bob an easy time? Of course not, she has enjoyed being in control all throughout the marriage so why should she hand over the reigns now. She is however more careful as to how hard she pulls as even she recognises that she must not completely strip him of his power. Now she has to support his tired and flagging body, but do so in a way that he should never fully understand.
She will allow him to think he still is control, outside of the house, and she will encourage him to think that he still has a powerful roar, but inside the house and away from friends and family she will love him as the adorable pussy cat that she has secretly always adored. She only hopes and prays that this is one puddy tat that doesn’t need neutering, and that it doesn’t begin to smell, get overly bloated, or get infested with fleas or worms!