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Monday, October 6, 2014

Sriani's Snippets 1

Too old? Too old? Too old for what?

Sriani Basnayake

What is the vital transition/cut-off point between late middle age and old age? When is a person classified as “old”? Is the Biblical definition of three score years and ten, still applicable in a world where we see Presidents and Prime Ministers in their 80s, and who are still “batting” on?
These thoughts have been circulating through my brain these last few weeks, ever since my dear daughter (hereafter referred to as DD) and son-in-law (SIL) have rubbed it into me that I am now too old for most of the routine mundane things of life.
I didn’t grow old gracefully, but the stark fact that I was now “old” hit me with such force……like a slinger from Lasith Malinga. I was clean bowled. A few weeks ago DD and SIL came home and declared that as I was nearly 72 years of age, I was too old to work, and that I should forthwith give notice to the Executive Director (ED) and Managing Director (MD) of the Family Planning Association (FPA) that I would not be doing any locum work from the end of the current month. I was told to relax, enjoy life and to channel my failing energies towards helping the Church and concentrate on God’s work etc……….in preparation I suppose to getting a few additional Brownie points from St Peter when I reach the Pearly Gates. I asked my children whether all this preparation was due to the fact that I had now entered the “departure lounge”, only to be told by my SIL that I had still not received my “boarding pass”. Hubby was a bit surprised by all this, but was non-committal on this issue.
On my way to work on my last day at the FPA’s Clinic, I casually mentioned to my driver that I would not be going to the clinic again, as I was finally retiring.  The poor man got such a shock that he nearly went off the road. He made a long speech on the necessity of reconsidering my decision and the value of keeping my brain active etc….etc… I think he was more worried about the possibility of losing his job, for his sole occupation for the day was driving me to the clinic and back, as hubby felt that I was “too old” to drive! I got my driving license at age 18, and after driving around for 50+ years, the old lady could not be trusted with the car, and needed to be chauffeur driven. My driving skills were further challenged by my dear nephew (DN) next door, who while being driven by me to the hospital to consult his doctor, inquired “Loku Amma, are you driving a car after a long long time?” This was a very polite way of informing yours truly that my driving was atrocious!
Within a day or two of the initial shock of realising that I was now “too old”, I was asked to babysit my little grand nephew Thusheen, to which I readily agreed. This time my hubby joined my DD, and they came down on me like a ton of bricks, saying that I was far too old to undertake any babysitting, that I definitely would not be able to run behind a one year old, and that I had no experience in looking after babies, (DD forgot that she was once a one year old!) and what if an emergency occurred etc….etc…. I am sure that my niece would have been very confident in having a fully qualified (though rusty) doctor as a babysitter, even though my agility and mobility were limited. As my babysitting appointment drew closer, hubby and DD kept on trying to dissuade me, trotting out all types of hair-raising dreadful situations that could occur, and the disasters little Thusheen would be exposed to, all because he was going to be looked after by an old grand aunt who was awaiting her boarding pass in the departure lounge. Babysitting day arrived. Grand aunt went and took charge of baby Thusheen. He had his lunch, played for a few minutes and went to sleep. Grand aunt held his little hand and fell asleep by him, and so ended a successful babysitting session.
Getting back to the advice given by DD to concentrate on working for the Church and dwelling on matters more spiritual, I must mention two incidents that got me thinking that I was very close to getting my boarding pass to meet St Peter. Two weeks ago, a lady in our Church presented me with a very “religious” book, saying that it would definitely interest me and be very useful reading. Not a week passed when another lady presented me with not one, but two “holy books” one of which was titled “The Ultimate Conversation...Talking with God through Prayer”. I thought of the brighter side of all this…….that you don’t have to be old to have better communion with God, but still…… somehow reinforced the fact that I was now firmly established in the departure lounge.
I am now two weeks into total retirement and feeling a bit bored. There was a time when I was nicknamed “BBC” by the cousins, BBC standing for “Borella Broadcasting Corporation” for I then lived in Borella, and after chit chatting at the FPA’s Clinic, I was well up with the local news. Now the local news is confined to what the Cookie has gathered from the other abbots up and down the road.
My friends are not that supportive of the idea of total retirement, saying that my brain needs stimulation and that my medical knowledge (or what is left of it) is going waste. What’s to be done?  DN next door plays rugger and fractures his ankle. Old Aunt is not consulted. Hubby kept groaning for weeks about a pain in his shoulder, and medical advice and remedies suggested by the home doctor was ignored until it became unbearable, and he had to be taken to hospital. DD next door fell off a ladder, and was taken to hospital by force. When we reached the doctor’s room at the hospital, he thought for a moment that I was the patient and said, “You do look ill” That was it…..the last straw! I looked old, felt old, and told the doc that I had just retired as my DD felt I was “too old” to work, and that, by the way, that it was my DD who was the patient.
So now, here I am, too old to do anything, but not too old to write. SIL has threatened me saying that he will never speak to me again if I write anything about him, but I can truly say that he has been left out of the picture completely. This is sad, for there are so many interesting tit bits that could have spiced up this article, but have been withheld as discretion is the better part of valour!


  1. Bravo Sriani! That was most entertaining and I enjoyed reading every bit of it. The material is good and the execution perfect! I know what you mean and from my point of view, people make two kinds of errors in this "too old" business. The first kind are the delusionists who maintain that age is just a number and that we should ignore chronological age and "get on with life" doing all the things you want to do and age doesn't matter (The Bungee jumpers!). The other group are the Pessimists who feel that your engine is run down with nothing but an abyss in front and must just jog along unhappily till the "call" comes. The former ends up with all sorts of physical injuries as their bodies are not equipped to deal with some physical tasks they undertake which were child's play when they were young and the latter group ends up with Depression and /or Alzheimer's. The sensible approach is to acknowledge and respect your ageing body, treat it with due respect but carry on doing things which make you happy within your capabilities and spend time helping those who need your help and would benefit. An outward outlook coupled with some self indulgence! As for work, so long as you can do it well, and gain pleasure doing it, and so long as working is not preventing you from doing things you wanted to do and like to do, then so long as you are wanted by your employer, there is absolutely no reason to stop, and the compromise of working part time is a good one. What you have is, and we all "old ones" have, is wisdom that comes with experience and that is not a small thing. What is tragic to see, are people who gave up work because "they are too old" and sit at home twiddling their thumbs (or other parts of their anatomy) because they can't fill the time. Growing old gracefully is to be commended and the fact of physiological and anatomical change is just that.. i.e., fact and not fiction! Good luck to you and I hope you consider serving the FPA again as you are good at it and enjoy doing it. - Speedy-

  2. Thanks Speedy for your very thoughtful comments. The FPA still sends for me when they are short of a doctor, which is about once a week. I enjoy going there, and hope that I can still be of some use to the public.I hope I have grown old gracefully. I enjoyed your song set to that delightful baila tune. Keep composing a few more. Cheers....Sriani

    1. Thanks Sriani. I am pleased you liked my song and even more pleased that you continue your valuable work with the FPA. I don't like the word "old" only because of the very negative connotations that are still sadly present in most Societies. I do recall that when I was a young boy in Ceylon (as it was then), Elders were valued and respected far more than they are now. I do accept however, that respect is not a "given" and has to be earned but the general principle of valuing your elders is good. I am looking forward to the next instalment in Sriani's Snippets! Keep smiling!

  3. I truly enjoyed reading this, Sriyani. And it is all the more relevant as I had been receiving many communications on "Old age'. I am glad about the way you fight back and the lighthearted way reply to what they hand out. You are a great example to us all. I remember how entertaining your talks at our batch reunions over the years, were. I particularly remember the one in Windsor on our 25 anniversary in 1992 (I think). We rolled in laughter. I wish you all the best!