Sunday 1 February 2015

I'm 66, and my four adult children still live with me

It's best to laugh and not ponder old age, writes Emmanuel Kehoe

Emmanuel Kehoe

Philosophical: Emmanuel Kehoe is adjusting to "changed circumstances". Photo by Ronan Lang

Three weeks after my 60th birthday, my brother-in-law, a close friend and my wife's only sibling, died under tragic circumstances.

Do I have to explain the euphemism? It was all neatly planned and precise – typical of him – but it plunged us into chaos in all sorts of ways.

Only now, just turned 66, I find myself waking up from that darkness, and surprised to be so comfortable about living in his house, my wife's former family home.

It was something I thought I'd never be able to do, given how we came into it.

At that 60th birthday in 2007, I finished the obligatory embarrassing speech with an impromptu version of Jingle Bells:

'All downhill, all downhill/Downhill all the way''.

This raised a laugh – maybe a nervous one among some of the older people present because, in your 60s, if you're not a famous author, movie star, banker, TV presenter or a better-paid public servant, you know that somewhere around the middle of the decade, you will retire and plunge into a scrotum-tightening sea of reduced circumstances.

Many people find themselves living as if their pockets were suddenly sewn up, their wallets superglued.

I got my first state pension payment in the New Year, and the travel pass. This officially turns me into a senior citizen, a semi-invisible being.

Someday, I will have the good grace to leave. I can get cheap haircuts from barbers who scare me, golden years offers from places I don't want to go to, and no offer at all of the kind that would have interested me in my 20s.

In Britain, David Cameron has pledged support for old-age pensions. Here I suspect, no such regard for age exists among ministers who are steering into well-upholstered futures. Dev's notion that Ireland's firesides "would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age'' seems unlikely at a time when the huntsmen of fiscal retribution are scouring the thickets for the halt and the lame.

I don't trust anyone in government any more, and I don't even come from Montana.

You also know, and have known for quite a long time, that you've lived longer than you're going to live.

Change can come out of the blue, what science fiction writer Rex Gordon called The Paw of God can knock you bawways – everything from illness to expenses that wouldn't have cost you a thought before, like getting the clutch fixed in the car you're going to have to keep until it dies, or you do.

So where am I now? Fully married and semi-retired you could say. Not poor by any means, but adjusting to changed circumstances. Still writing and still working a little.

As someone in his 60s, I'm also in the perhaps unusual circumstance of having all four children living at home. They must have, unknown to me, studied the classics because they bash about the place like Carthaginian war elephants and eat like epicureans.

Irish Independent

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