Human Aging: Everybody Must Eventually Deal With Mother Nature and Father Time
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As Long As You Must Age, Do It Gracefully
I’ve come to terms with the gray-haired, slightly wrinkled face that stares back at me while I’m shaving, but I still have a bone to pick with the senior citizen I see reflected back at me from the store windows I pass from time to time.
Do I really look like a bona fide senior citizen now? Have I truly come to look like the people who, in the arrogance of my youth, I hoped I would “live long enough to look like?” Yes, Bob, you have. Get over it.
I am over it. I’m comfortable in my skin; God knows it's loose enough. What I’m not comfortable with is the speed with which I achieved this noble and dignified status.
I say that because there is a certain dignity to be felt after one has finally collected his first Social Security check. I paid into it for 50 years, starting at the age of 16, when I was earning 75 cents an hour (also the going rate for babysitters back then) at a commercial laundry. Hard work, but it helped me grow as a person.
There’s also a certain dignity to a 17 year old automatically giving you the Senior Discount at the donut shop; although I suppose there are some seniors who would consider that to be presumptuous. From my perspective, it's taken me a long time to earn it, so, thank you for not making me beg for it. And there’s dignity in being asked for your advice or opinion by someone who is genuinely interested in it.
Thirty years ago the “opinionated me” would have told them precisely what they would need to do, precisely how it should be done, and precisely what to do moving forward. Today’s “dignified me” says, “Well, I can’t solve the dilemma for you, but faced with the same situation, here are the things I would consider in helping me reach a solution.” The discussion that ensues helps me grow as a person.
I can’t believe it was 25 years ago that I joined my Monday night bowling league. And how come I’m the only one who has aged? Back then I impatiently suffered through the 10 minute warm-up period because I was "ready to go" as soon as I arrived at the lanes. Now, I need every one of those minutes because I need to throw 8 or 10 balls before my muscles and joints loosen up.
I can’t believe it’s been over 30 years since I had my last cigarette (Christmas Eve, 1982)! It seems like only yesterday that I was shelling out 72 cents for my pack of Marlboros. I also can’t believe that today’s pack-a-day smoker shells out around 70 bucks a week for cigarettes. Man, if only you would put that money away towards your retirement!
I can’t believe it was over 40 years ago that I got my first color TV. The technology was still fairly new back then in 1971, and the pictures weren’t very sharp, making the colors sort of bleed together. A lot depended on how strong the station’s signal was in your area, how good your antenna was, how you had it oriented, and if someone was running the vacuum cleaner in the house.
Back in the 60s, when my nieces and nephews were toddlers and pre-teens, I loved getting down on the floor and playing with them. Now, I love getting down on the floor and playing with my grandchildren. It’s the getting back up that reminds me of my new “dignified” status.
What I really, really can’t believe is that my oldest son had the nerve to turn 40 a few years ago! I thought we brought him up better than that. I do note, with some glee, that his hair is now salt & pepper; mostly salt. My genes look good on him.
Aging is the part of life that one hopes one can do gracefully. And I think one’s frame of mind has a lot to do with it. I’m not usually in a senior citizen frame of mind (Hell, I’m just broken in), which is why I’m taken aback by my reflection in a store window.
Some of my contemporaries act like they’ve been ridden hard and put away wet. They’re impatient, cranky, careless about their appearance, and generally give us seniors a lousy image. A little attitude adjustment could go a long way towards taking the bite out of aging. And they should look for the positives, too.
In 2007 I started walking 3.25 miles every day at 5AM. Back then, it took me 52 minutes to complete the walk; 16 minutes per mile...just like it does now!