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Friday, 12 November 2010

This Old Age

By Steve Kemp

October 14, 2010

Dear Dan,

You asked me what I thought of this old age thing. Check this out. Someone scrawled it on a wall:

When we're younger, we add better.
When we're older, we subtract better.

Now, to a younger person this may not make much sense. But think how from birth, nature has provided you with a body and raised you - from the first spark of your existence, to your birth, toddling, childhood, right up to this very moment - at each step giving you more weight, height, strength, speed and agility.

But only until some time in the future, when you are an adult, and start to lose these things - not all of them and not all at once and slowly. But surely.

So, here are some simple things I can tell you about this old age.

For me, it pretty much all started the first time someone called me “sir” or “mister.” I forget which. But then came the dawn, and the truth was revealed to me: I am no longer young. I AM AGED. Brrrr. At least most of the people I ran into were my own age, or close to it, but I started feeling a little diminished after that.

Time went on, while everything settled down, so to speak, until one day I noticed that most common folks - like cashiers, waitresses, gas pump guys or people on the street - were looking younger than they used to.

And then, when I went to the twentieth Clairemont High School reunion, I found myself wondering why all these guys had brought their moms!

Then the image settled upon me like a dark cloud, when I realized I must look like someone's dad. Definitely a diminishment of my youth.

And that's when I realized that pretty soon I was going to go from being younger than most people to being older than most and no longer, even conceivably, in the younger generation.

Supposing they live long enough, this is precisely, inexorably what happens to every person. Now, that's just how life works, I know, but when all the doctors and nurses start to looking like kids, well, it's disconcerting.

By the way, after 45 everyone has to wear glasses to read. Glasses! Everyone.

Happily, there are some upsides. Most everyone has always wanted to find someone to live with, and love, for the rest of their lives. And now, as we age the odds of accomplishing this feat do actually get better with every passing day.

As for me myself ever finding such a “love for life,” the opportunities are better than ever before, according to my son, the erstwhile marketer.

He tells me that these days, being a male at this age puts me in a "good demographic" since the steeper death rate for men translates into more available women my age.

My other son, the media engineer, says to be sure to watch the obituaries, just in case someone nice's husband has died. He is more practical.

Towards the end of it, so I'm told by some of my elders, times can get pretty piquant when a bunch of old people get together down there under the same roof at the “rest home.” I expect it ought to get even more interesting as the baby boomers start boogeying into those echoing hallways.

And beyond that, Dan, all I can tell you is what my grandfather told me: "First, keep your wallet in your front pocket and save your back." He would always start with that.

"Then, be careful on the monkey-bars, don't walk down the stairs with your hands in your pockets, learn to swim, do judo, not football, never put any kind of ball in your mouth and eschew motorcycles." And for you I will add, use ear-plugs early and often.

Also, remember that your body is not as young as ever it was and it's always older than ever - or you may never reach this old age.

Your grandfather,

Lastly, I must tell you that in line today at the store, I was mightily encouraged by a old man, barely walking, leaning on the cart, breathing tubes in his nose, moving in his own end game. Someone said they were surprised to see him and asked if he was okay now.

He wasn't quite indignant but forthrightly stated for all present that it was nowhere near time for him to go. He said there were still too many people he was pissed off at!

I laughed and he started to smile. He is free to say anything to anyone anywhere forevermore. Now, that can be freedom.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I liked reading your quirky comments on aging. We might as WELL laugh! I sat in a session with a few of the residents of my elder housing building (33 women; 3 men)and thought what a funny book could be written from all their comments, but I have to wait till they're all dead! And I'm far from the youngest.

In a note from an elder was this: You only live once, and if you do it right, once is enough.
Interesting read. I like the advice about monkey bars.

That scrawl
on the wall
says it all.

Enjoyed doing the math.

Steve - Social activist Maggie Kuhn once wrote, "Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do one outrageous thing every day." - Sandy

After I read this piece, I felt a lot better about my own aging! Thanks!

I loved your story. Your sense of humor is delightful. I especially had to laugh out loud about the man who was not ready to go yet because there were stil too many people he was pissed off at. Just wonderful.

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