MilestonesThe first time I remember hearing the word used was at my twenty-first birthday party. I recall more the thumping headache I had the morning after the party rather than the details of the night before.

Irrespective of the milestone, life went on. There were things to do, places to go and people to see.

Thank God they didn’t put fifty candles on the birthday cake when I reached what was again called a milestone. It would have set the smoke alarms off. But just as the batsman removes his helmet, waves it to the crowd, points his bat to his mates and then settles down to continue his innings, so life continued after fifty.

While milestones may not have meant much to me in the past, the letter I received from Centrelink, along with the attached form made me very much aware of the significance of my sixty-fifth birthday.

The Government was aware I was turning sixty-five and wanted information on my current financial status. I completed the form telling them what I had and what I owed. I even included the contents of the piggy bank on the shelf in the kitchen.

Centrelink 1The letter said if I had any questions I could call into my local Centrelink office for a discussion. Sure, I had some questions and if I had to visit the office to get them answered, then I would go.

I parked the car two blocks away, put on the dark glasses and tried to look as anonymous as I could as I approached the front of the building. Without looking back to see who was watching, I slipped inside and joined the line at the information counter.

I was told to take a seat and I would be attended to shortly. The thought went through my mind that this sounded like the message you get when you are waiting on the phone; ’your call is important to us but all our consultants are busy attending to other customers concerns’. And the unsaid bit that you imagine is that they are gathered around the water cooler chatting about the previous night’s conquests.

There were people of all ages waiting with me, so obviously they all weren’t here for the same reason I was, unless they were all young looking for their age.

A smiling clerk called my name and I was sure I had numerous pairs of eyes following me as I walked with my man to his cubicle at the rear of the office.

Following the usual introductory pleasantries I was congratulated. So what was the big deal! – I had only turned sixty-five at the end of the week. “Ah but you see Mr Mack you are now eligible for the Old Age Pension”, he said.

Sure, I have paid my taxes down through the years and even have a small fortnightly income from my old superannuation scheme. But the Government wanted to pay me money, so who was I to knock that idea. It was just the way it was put that got to me. I had reached the milestone where I was to become an ‘Old Age Pensioner’.

In my mind I felt like I did when I was twenty-one. There were still things to do, places to go and people to see. It was just that there would not be as much spare cash floating around as in those younger years. I certainly did’nt feel like I thought an old age pensioner should feel.

Now Centrelink had all my personal details and I was informed I was now, “in the computer”. I looked at the box with the twinkling lights beside the clerk’s desk and imagined what it might be like trying to peer out through one of the slits in the front. Perhaps like it was for people who gave their address as a post office box.

The clerk reached for his rubber stamp and as he banged it on my form I felt like I had been hit on the backside with a hot branding iron. It was official, I was now an ‘Old Age Pensioner’.

Ah well, so what! I think it is time to look forward to the next milestone. How about a century – now that would be worthwhile waving the bat to the crowd. Let’s go for it, I say.

Peter Mack

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