Story for the Day: Aging

Aging is not something I think terribly much about. It is rather a suggestion than a necessity. To some, it is only an annoyance, and to others, an outright horror.

Alasdair watched the children, and while they were happy reading about predatory patterns and feeding habits, he was cherishing more melancholy sensations.
“We should disallow the children from having birthdays,” said he quietly, with an agonized
“We could,” said Boudicca. “It wouldn’t stop them from growing older, however.”
“Yes, it would.”
Hathanta, who was listening to the conversation, smiled to himself, and Baronous, who could not but hear, simpered and shook his head.
“We both know, Alasdair,” said Boudicca, “that our acknowledgement of an arbitrary day would not stop them from aging.”
Alasdair stared at the ground. “Vyrdin is contrary so often, and everything seems to bend to his will, that I thought I might try it.”
“In the recesses of your mind that occupy magical and wishful thinking, it might, but by whatever fanciful realm you operate in, you might stop their aging, but you will never stop ours.”
Alasdair sighed and looked deplorable, and Boudicca put her hand on his shoulder.
“Oh, Alasdair, you always have a panic over nothing. You look exactly the same as you did eleven years ago— rather, you do to my eye, anyway, and that is all that counts. Your darling wife will agree with me.”
Carrigh looked coy and said, with a blush, “I noticed recently that Alasdair gets crows foot when he smiles.”
“What!” Alasdair exclaimed. “Where? You mean here, at the corner of my eye, or is it more underneath? How does it wrinkle when I smile?” widening his mouth and forcibly heightening his cheeks. “Is it bad? Are they deep, or are they just surface wrinkles? Do I smile with my eyes too much? Maybe it’s just the cold. It does dry out my skin,” palpating the corners of his eyes, “and dry skin does wrinkle more quickly—I’ll go see if Bilar has any softening cream.”
He stood from his chair, holding his face in an attempt to step his wrinkles from dispersing, and Carrigh moved her lips to one corner of her mouth to suppress a smile.
“You are the most doting partner,” said Boudicca, spying Carrigh sagaciously, “but at times, there is certainly a streak in you. You know how to discompose him faster than anybody.”
“I did it so Bilar could tell him he does not look any older,” said Carrigh. “He always worries for nothing.”
“I don’t mind a few small wrinkles,” said Alasdair. “I only don’t want to look old before my time.”
It was said with assurance, but Alasdair looked wretched, and Carrigh and Boudicca could not but laugh.
“If your blessed grandfather was anything to go by,” said Boudicca, smiling, “you will look the ripe old age of forty when you are sixty-five. If your parental influence is any judge, Bryeison is nearly seventy, and he hardly looks fifty-five, and Draeden is just the same.”
“These strigiforms are amongst some of the smallest of the species,” Draeden read, “and can even be considered amongst the group of owls called owlets—oh, thank you, Boudicca! How kind of you to say so, and I hardly do anything to keep myself looking young—owlets, which includes pygmy and spotted owls, amongst many others…”
Draeden went on, unconscious of his Alasdair’s dejection, and Bryeison, hearing though not saying anything to interrupt the conversation, smiled to himself and sipped his tea, considering how little he thought of his age or anything associated with it. He was with his family again after a ten-years absence, he was sitting in the same kitchen he had grown to love since his adolescence, his family garlanded the table and counter, and there was all his concern. Age for a seasoned soldier of his merits had only to do with how well he was still able to serve his king and kingdom, and as he was as hale and hardy as he was at thirty, he thought he might rather feel his age than demonstrate it. A soldier’s sufferance was often over by his time of life, and indeed his was over for a time, but since his revival, he had never once considered anything like the decrepitude Alasdair seemed to be so conscious of. The silver streaks in his hair, the deep curogations in his forehead, the estuaries at the corners of his eyes were marks of pride to one who had seen countless battles and fought many wars. The map of his features bespoke his many years of triumph and tribulation in the king’s service, and he was glad to wear the aspect of so accomplished a soldier, glad to have earned the prize of old age.  
“Sheamas is older than you, Alasdair,” Boudicca observed, “and he makes no complaints.”
“I ain’t gettin’ inna this, kin,” said Sheamas, turning away and trying to hide himself behind Shayne.
“Your wife is older than you,” Boudicca added, “and you don’t see her making any complaints.
“I’m only four days older,” Carrigh laughed.
“Meaning you should have a wrinkle exactly four days older than his.”
Alasdair gave her a flat look, and Carrigh, beginning to feel that she had plagued her husband too well, only smiled and shook her head.
“Alasdair, we go through this nearly every year,” said Boudicca plaintively, “both on our children’s birthdays and our own. We should be glad to watch our children grow up. Captains and kings are rarely afforded such luxuries.”
“I know,” Alasdair conceded, with half a sigh. “I’m not vain—“
“No, never.”
“But— don’t give me that look. You know I’m not personally vain—I know how soldiers and kings can age prematurely under the strain of so much responsibility. I don’t want my children to have to look at an old man.“
“Would you call Bryeison an old man?”
“He can call me that if he wants,” said Bryeison, who was glancing over the plate of scones and grinning to himself. “I’ll just prove him wrong later by burying him near the mews.”
Alasdair gave up the point; they understood him, he knew they must, and their japes were only in service to that part of himself that could not relinquish the fear of senescence. His features would be what they always were, but that would never keep him from tumbling into the throes of grandeval defeat. He wanted his children to remember him as kindly and caring and upright, the dignified bough of a the royal Brennin tree, and not as a haggard and bent figure, passulated and stooping by the time they should be young adults. His fears, however, carried him off to the infirmary, where Bilar would rectify the misconstruction of happiness and time, and Bryeison and Boudicca and Carrigh simpered as he went.

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