Yesterday, the weather was dry here. It wasn’t a sunny day – no, of course not – but at least it wasn’t pouring cold rain all over everything, which is the norm for our winters.
Naturally, I donned my work clothes and sprang forth to work in the yard. Hah, hah, “sprang” – as if. If only my body was that elastic these days. I might go so far as to say I strode forth. Yes, I can still manage that. And in case you’re wondering about the title, I’m not enough advanced in years to call this essay “O is for Old.”
Speaking of old, my chosen task in the garden was to clear the old canes out of the raspberry patch that lines the eastern fence. It’s a simple job and relatively easy. I took my time and enjoyed the fresh air and the occasional chirping of birds.
For the non-gardeners among us, raspberries produce fruit on long stems, known as canes, which grow straight up from the ground. Only canes that have entered their second year of growth will yield berries, and after these canes have yielded fruit, they die. Even as these canes were giving me raspberries, a new set of canes was growing up, leafing out, and getting strong for the next year’s production. In preparation for the coming spring, I must cut out and clear away the old, dead canes, thus giving room and breathing space to the new canes.
The job itself means I snip off and extract the old canes in sections. First, I’ll cut off the upper third of the dead cane and pull it out of the tangle of new and old canes. Then I’ll reach lower down, cut off the middle third, and finally I will drop into a deep squat and cut the defunct cane off at ground level. By cutting the cane into sections, I’m less likely to damage the young canes when I pull out the old ones.
Well, the top two cuts were no problem, but after an hour of repeated deeps squats, my left hip joint piped up with an objection and the right hip was thinking about chiming in. There was grunting and oofing involved. My leg muscles, keen to continue, called the joints wimps, and my arms offered to help by grabbing the metal trellis and giving the hip joints a hand – literally. Fortunately, I was only a few snips from completing the task, so I didn’t have to deny the warning “oof.”
This morning, I mused about work and age and denial. I’m not old enough to draw my Canadian Pension yet and I’m already noticing plenty of age-related impairments. Somehow, I’d imagined my healthy lifestyle would have me join the rarefied ranks of centenarians who still drive cars and play rounds of golf, but that’s not the way things are shaping up.
Not too long ago, the Canadian government talked about raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 or even more. Its economic advisory council says the age of eligibility “should be recalibrated and increased to meet the Canadian reality of an aging society and a considerably longer life expectancy.” Of course, their focus is on the dollars and cents of the retirement situation, not the health and ability side of things.
Hey, if you are lucky enough to be supple and sprightly at 65, keep on working if you wish. But longer life does not mean the body doesn’t wear down at the same rate as before. I look around at the many (more than you’d think) physically demanding jobs out there, and I think about what the bodies of these workers are saying to them even before they reach 65. Then I think of the government bean counters telling the workers, “Tough, but you need to toil even longer and put up with more and more pain.”
In sympathy, I say to these workers, “Oof!”
To the council and any politician who agrees with them, I say, “Seriously?” And furthermore – RASPBERRY!
Here’s my Letter O video for kids. It includes scenes with otter and osprey.