Snoopy picture. Black and white cartoon dog lying on its belly on a brown floor. About it is written: I always knew I'd get old. How fast it happened was a bit of a surprise though. Above this is the foilage from two pink trees

2023 Grateful 34: Getting old

When someone younger stands up on a bus and offers me their seat, I look surprised. Always. I don’t feel any older than 35 – that’s when the clock inside my head stopped. That someone else might look at me and see the thought bubble hovering over my head with the words GETTING OLD, that takes some getting used to.

There’s a lovely Hungarian word – néni – that translates as aunt. But you don’t have to be related to someone for them to use it. (The male equivalent is bacsi – uncle.) I refer to my friend Marika as Marika néni. She’s in her 70s and has grandkids. She’s earned it. I don’t see her as old, but older. Yet I was horrified to hear another friend’s son, a young lad of about 10, call me Mary néni.

Mary néni!

I’ve a while to go to 70 and don’t have any kids let alone grandkids. That said, when I was 10, I thought 50 was ancient.

There’s another Hungarian word – csókolom. Technically, it’s the abbreviated form of Kezét csókolom, which means I kiss your hand. It’s a ‘polite greeting used towards someone considerably older than the speaker, particularly elderly ladies with whom one is acquainted’.

Elderly. Ladies.

The first time I was csókolomed, I was again, horrified. What was that young wan seeing that I couldn’t see? And yes, age and old and older are all relative.  I know that. But as Snoopy says, I knew I’d get old but I was surprised at how quickly the world saw it happening.

I’ve always been partial to older things. Older music. Older houses. Older men. I like old stuff. I’m particularly fond of weathered faces and aged colours. One of my favourite love songs is Brandi Carlile’s The Story. I was hooked by the opening lines.

Walking through the village this morning, I noticed how drawn I was to peeling paint.

Collage of six photos, four showing old gates with rusted colours of greens and rusts; one showing a concrete pillar in faded blue, and a sixth showing an old concrete fence in faded blues and yellows.

As I continued my walk, I noticed. I noticed that the older houses were more attractive than the newer ones, the older gardens had more life and were not as tame are the landscaped versions, and the older dogs were more discerning in how they used their energy.

There’s sod all I can do about getting old other than embrace it. Yes, physical ageing brings with it the aches and pains that come with advancing years. But then I live in the land of thermal spas. Getting old – that’s not the problem.

Grateful for the reminder to root out my chalk box and show the village kids that this néni can still hop.




One Response

  1. I was taught to say kezét csókolom when taking leave of a female older than about 18, but that’s a bit old fashioned now. Remember, though, Mikszáth’s mot: No Hungarian woman will to admit to being less than 14 or more than 40.

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