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As I write these words and watch them grow into sentences, I am living the final hours of my 68th year. By the time you read this, I’ll be sixty nine years old. Or, as French and other Romance languages put it, I shall have sixty nine years. (Of course, Zen Buddhists would add the gestation period and conclude that I’m nearer 70, wouldn’t they?) Anyway, ignoring those pedantic Zen people, having these four-seasons-times-sixty nine on my person feels heavy, but it seems I am far from alone. We oldies may be a majority soon in Australia, and elsewhere. The hair has gone white, the teeth wobble a little and the memory fumbles. Gabriel Garcia Márquez in Love in the Time of Cholera charts Dr Juvenal Urbino’s slow demise and death through his urine flow. The trappings of age, once the sole property of my father and his generation, are now all mine.

They say that life gets much of its meaning from the fact that it ends. They also say that humans are animals, with no special destiny or future. Old age confirms such pessimism.


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