Most of us would count ourselves blessed if we could get on a short-haul flight when we hit our nineties. Not so George Bush Senior, the 41st President of the United States.
He had celebrated his 70th, 80th and 85th birthday by skydiving. And he saw no reason to desist merely because he had hit 90; or because he was now forced to use a wheelchair due to a form of Parkinsons. So the day he turned 90, Bush Senior jumped out of a plane yet again. His only concession to age and infirmity was that he tandem-jumped, harnessed to a former member of the armed services.
90-year-old Bush landed awkwardly on the green of his Maine ranch.
The images of the 90-year-old Bush landing awkwardly on the green of his Maine ranch and being surrounded quickly by members of his loving – and I am guessing, nervous – family, must have brought smiles to the faces of everyone who saw them (they certainly did to mine). His wife, Barbara, just a year younger, rushed up to kiss him. His children and grandchildren smothered him with hugs while his great-grandchildren looked on.
How utterly amazing to be alive at such an age! And what’s more, to have this kind of zest for life in what are usually called your twilight years. We should all be so lucky.
But just in case you are not the kind to jump out of an airplane no matter how significant the birthday (yeah, me neither!), here are just some of the best ways to make merry on a birthday with the big zero in it.
Sorry, young ones, 20 just doesn’t count. So, let’s skip ahead to 30. This is a tricky one. It creeps up on you when you are busy doing other things and taps you on the shoulder to announce that you are now all grown up. Thirty. The word is enough to strike terror in the hearts of those who still haven’t figured out how this life thingy works. So, how do you cope with a birthday that says that you’ve already lived through nearly half of yours?
Why, you throw a party of course! The mother of all parties, a party would put all the parties of your 20s to shame. A party that would announce that you are still young, still with it, still fun. And with a bit of luck, still standing at the end of it.
If thirty can come as a dreadful shock, forty steals upon you like a familiar friend. You notch up a relationship or two, have a couple of kids (or not), settle into cosy domesticity, start clambering up the career ladder, all with a wary eye on the passing of time. And then it is upon you.
The big Four O. No, a knees-up won’t cut it this time round. You need something more elegant, more sophisticated, and just a bit more sedate. Pick a Sunday and host a brunch. Keep the food simple and easy. Keep the drinks circulating. The adults can relax without worrying about bedtimes (or hangovers). The kids can run around and wreak havoc. Enjoy this time before they turn into surly teenagers and refuse to speak to you for a decade.
By 50 you will be fortunate indeed if even 50 per cent of your friendships survive. So, thank your stars for the ones that do, and take all 10 of them for a weekend away. It doesn’t have to be Paris, the Maldives or anywhere exotic and expensive. Just choose a place where all of you can spend quality time together, reminisce on the days gone by and raise a glass to the future.
Sixty calls for a trip away with the spouse, to rediscover one another now that the kids are all grown up and producing kids of their own. Do something fun and adventurous before the knees begin to give way and the backs start acting up. Go trekking in the mountains. Take in a walking tour of Switzerland. Try a spot of white water rafting. Live a little.
I do hope that by the time your 70s roll along you would have ticked off most things on your bucket list. In case you haven’t, then mark this anniversary by doing at least two of those things. It could be going on a cruise along the Mediterranean. It could be visiting the Great Barrier Reef. It could be praying at Tirupati. Whatever works for you.
At 80, it will probably be your family’s turn to throw a grand knees-up for you – even though you will probably have to stick to nimbu pani at the doctor’s advice. Take my advice. Sneak in a glass of champagne anyway. You deserve it; if only for having made it this far.
And so finally we come to 90. Don’t worry if you are clean out of ideas by now. If all else fails, there’s always skydiving!
From HT Brunch, June 22
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