I’m approaching the dreaded 40, so what?

Wednesday February 20 2013



By CATHERINE MBURA [email protected]

My elder sister once took a telephone message for my father. It was those Precambrian days before the era of mobile phones when one had to run upstairs to answer the telephone. You had to do so because there was no caller ID, so if the phone stopped ringing before you got to it, you would have no idea who was trying to get in touch with you.

Anyway, my sister, whose outlook on life back then was more of “don’t worry be happy”, neither jotted down the details of the caller nor the message. His arrival from work in the evening triggered her memory and she breezily told him that there had been a call for him.

“Who was it?” he enquired, retrieving the telephone directory to look up the caller and return the call. “Some fossil whose message I forget,” she answered nonchalantly, eyes fixed on the TV. My parents laughed uproariously at the thought of their children thinking of them as so decrepit.

As my age marches steadily towards when my life will begin — at 40 — I find myself metamorphosing into my mother. I cannot explain the difference between an iPad and a tablet (not that I care much). My memory is not as reliable as it once was and my mobile phone is forever beeping with reminders. I feel more than a tad irritated when I board a matatu and the upstart of a driver (earrings, corn rows, and all) suddenly turns on the latest music, full volume. I have, on more than one occasion, disembarked rather than subject my ears to the cacophony.

The first thing I do when I get home from work, besides greeting my children, is to ask them a whole host of what are to them, irritating questions. “Have you… taken your baths, done your homework, prepared your uniforms for tomorrow, brushed your teeth, done your revision, said your prayers, been mindful of your auntie?”

In my salad days, I could keep a grudge — over the most exiguous of issues — better than an elephant could remember a route to find water in the sprawling wilderness. More recently, although I find myself increasingly clicking my tongue at those whose youthful antics lead them from one misadventure to the next near-calamity, I usually do not hold it against them. My index finger has acquired the annoying habit of wagging itself when I am making a point, especially to a minor. I could not help feeling entertained recently when, after saying hello to my children’s friends in our neighbourhood, one of them whispered “Mama Khadija ni mkali!” (Khadija’s mother is very strict).

The phrase, “Do I make myself clear?” which, in my youth, always followed a lengthy tongue-lashing from what I considered to be a too-strict mother, is becoming one of my maxims. Many are the times when I have felt a strong sense of déjà vu while giving unsolicited advice to my brood.

Getting older, to me, is a good thing. You become more practical-minded; having a bad hair day is not the cataclysmic thing it was when I was in my twenties. You become more responsible, concentrating on how best you can make yours and your children’s lives better. Your relationships become more meaningful. I find myself increasingly uninterested in the soap operas that I was so addicted to a decade ago, preferring instead to curl up on the sofa with a good book.

Today’s fashions leave me nonplussed and my text messages contain few abbreviations. I expect my children to respect older people and behave with decorum towards their elders and age mates alike. Most of all, I enjoy the freedom that getting older brings as I am no longer skittish, as many females are, of revealing my true age — 30 years and 102 months.

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