It is my dad’s 83rd birthday today.
He died 16 years ago, but so what? March 29 will always be his birthday while one of his offspring is alive to remember it.
I was pondering on how we would have celebrated - and what shape he would have been in.
I picture him, tucking into roast beef and Yorkshire pud around my kitchen table, one he never got to see, with my husband, one he never got to see, either.
At 83, my dad is frail of body and has a wooden walking stick, those infamous, skinny stork legs we used to laugh at when he put on his holiday shorts would surely have got ever thinner and knobblier.
He’s also shorter, in my mind’s eye. Because like socks that have gone around a washing machine several hundred times, old people shrink a bit. But he’s still witty and wise, his marbles most definitely still rolling.
Though in all probability, had he lived he could well have slid into dementia. His mum, my gran - she did.
He - we - would have hated that. So maybe it was a better thing, dying young (66 is no age, really).
I’m thinking about him today not only because it’s his birthday, but also because it’s nearly mine. I’ll be 50 in a couple of weeks, which is not that far off no age at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those women who fears the big 5-0. Getting here has been a feat and an adventure, so bring on the party. I will celebrate all the things I’ve done (right and wrong); all the people I’ve loved and lost (right and wrong).
I’m OK with the person I’ve grown into. The only bit of being 50 that worries me is, if my dad’s anything to go by, I’m probably well past the half-way mark. And another 16 years is not enough to see India and Graceland. And my child having a child (and then finally understanding why I will fret over his every cough, spit, tear and motorway journey until the day I die).
Like an old Cortina, though, my bits have started to drop off. Teeth? Mine have always been strong and sound. Now, I bite into a bit of toffee (which surely was designed for old people) and wham, I’ve shattered another molar, vintage grey amalgam and all.
Consequently I’ve started to invest for an old age. Not in my pension; I’m too skint. But in health supplements. I’ve never been a Holland & Barrett kind of person (Ibuprofen was always my cure-all) but having noticed my joints now crack and grate, I’ve bought cod liver oil capsules. I haven’t had them since I was a child. And because brittle bone disease is a risk post-menopause, I’ve bought calcium tablets too (I haven’t been on those since I was pregnant).
My birthday present to me? Not Botox. Not a Burberry handbag. I’m booking a double appointment at the doctor’s. I plan to take a comprehensive list of niggles, like I do when the car’s in for a service.
I now understand why old people are never out of the surgery. Age hasn’t turned them into hypochondriacs. They just want to keep on living.