I think its time for me to write about one of the basic facts of life. No, I do not mean the birds and the bees. What I have in mind is more like owls and goats. Growing old is not for sissies. Goats and owls are perfect symbols for getting old.
Growing old takes a lot of hard work, prayer and determination. Such is the nature of things that when you finish you die. It is something that all of us have to consider no matter what our age may be. As a child I was in a hurry to grow up, to be mature and independent.
Now I no longer relish my advanced maturity. Being old as a concept made its initial impact on me when I turned 45. I quipped that I was half way to 50, when someone informed me that I was half way to 90. That was a sobering thought.
This reflection on aging has several different components worthy of note. The first has to do with eating. Years ago, I could eat anything and work, sweat or worry off any unwanted calories. My tailor is on a retainer. I also have become obsessed with my weight and the fact that I have only a slight hint of having a soft belly. I also do a lot of mirror time. I check to see if I am getting one of those beer belly overhangs that literally make me sick when I see a man with his gut arriving two minutes before the rest of him. Now I weigh myself constantly and try to count my calories. Could a man in his 70s have an eating disorder?
I am obsessed with time. I want to get older but without the attendant consequences. It is a truism that everyone is entitled to two dates within a bracket. Most tombstones have them. I already have the first date–(1943-?) And I know now that my second date will not be 2016. I guess it is the historian in me.
This obsession smacks of vanity. I never thought of myself as a vain person but…the Bible is pretty direct about vanity. It appears in both testaments and is a stepchild of deadly pride. The Book of Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon, shows how he learned that God is the only path to finding meaning in life. Using a messianic character called the Preacher to narrate, Ecclesiastes begins with: Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity. After reading this, I immediately hear Carly Simon brilliant rendition of You’re so vain, ringing in my ear.
I constantly worry about my health. Is my next check-up going to uncover the cause of my immediate demise or will I get another 12-month reprieve? Just what does the term golden years mean anyway? Does that suggest gold in the teeth or money in the bank? Or will the alchemist of old age turn my golden years into linguine? I think silver is a better choice. I mean silver hair, if one is lucky to have any of his or hair left. Women lose their hair too. That’s equal justice for you.
The older I get the more equipment I need to get along. I seem to have more gadgets that plug in or insert for added vision, auditory reception, and the like. It takes 10 minutes of each morning to gather, clean, unplug, dewax, and buff my equipment. I feel like an auto mechanic.
I used to have a great memory. I could recite the presidents in order and the years they served. I can still do that but I have trouble remembering all my passwords. I would be lost without my daily calendar, that is, if I could find it. And keys? Why can I never find my keys? Do they have legs? I often go into rooms and forget why I went there.
At fifty I stopped jogging, playing tennis and running up three stairs at a time. I sadly realized that I was at the stage when my body gave me more pain than pleasure. It was just too easy to get hurt. Pain takes up a lot of the process of aging. I was spending too much time at the local Walgreen’s, waiting for my pain prescriptions to be filled. To stop our downhill slide, my wife and I hired our own personal trainer. Working out gave me a nice high, but as Lizzie, our trainer increased my pain level, I found out that exercise only felt good when I stopped.
President Obama’s advice to seniors like me and their pain, just take a pill! Considering how much we elderly cost his government programs that pill I suspect will probably be cyanide. Fortunately I have found something better to take the edge off my pain than an Obama pill. Her name is Lena and she has been my massage therapist for many years and she is arguably the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. I thank God for her every day. She was perfect antidote for Liz. I can honestly say the pain is much more tolerable and my body seems to be my best friend again.
If I were Chinese I would be revered and honored for my age and wisdom. In the United States with its emphasis on the young, I am happy to settle for a warm bed, a nearby restroom and three full meals a day. I have all the time in the world to think about where I am and what I am doing. What was the question?
I am convinced that getting old is not for sissies. Some living legends do not know when to stay away from the table with grace and dignity. The late St. Louis Cardinal announcer, Jack Buck, is a good example. Buck had Parkinson’s disease during the last years of his life, which made performing and listening to him very difficult. In typical Buckian ironic wit, he said: I gave you the best years of my life and now I am giving you some of the worst. Jack should have followed the innate wisdom of the Kenny Rogers’ song The Gambler—You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.