Tuesday, April 23, 2024



Growing Old is Easy

 I mistakenly thought that by now – weeks away from my 85th birthday - I was prepared for what was yet to come. It turns out I’m not as wise as I thought I was. I I naively thought I exited the eighth decade prepared for whatever the ninth had to offer but have quickly learned otherwise. Despite a lifetime of pondering about anything and everything, I am learning things about myself I never realized, or was unwilling to acknowledge. It’s been easy to convince myself it’s the mirror that has changed, and not me.

Growing old is easy! The only requirement is staying alive. If you can do that your body will do the rest, and it will do it so unobtrusively and effectively that you don’t know it’s happening until each change, big or small suddenly appears in your mirror. Hairlines magically moves from here to there. The shape of your body changes as parts seem to shift and settle, and areas of skin begins to resemble crepe paper. It’s a bit of a shock at first, especially the skin part, but they’re not difficult to accept once you overcome misguided vanities. These physical (and metabolic) changes affect more than our appearance; they are accompanied by a host of functional changes that intrude on many of our lifetime routines. Simple tasks that were once accomplished thoughtlessly now require deliberation, patience, and even caution. It took only one tumble trying to get my second leg into a pair of pants to teach me to hold on to something, or better yet, sit down. The same with putting on or taking off a pair of socks. Sitting down is easy, but even that requires some attention. I learned that the hard way when I sat on the bench in our shower. I was feeling quite secure when suddenly I sensed something moving, not realizing it was me, and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor of shower with my head buried in the shower curtain. The only thing bruised was my self-esteem and confidence. Lesson learned.

With time and patience these new, age-imposed measures can become routine. The key word here is patience, which I believe is a requirement if one hopes to successfully navigate these later years when the waste of haste can be a serious injury. Then there is the issue of frustration, something I have encountered more in the past few years than in all previous years. I’m putting on a coat or shirt, one arm is in the right sleeve, but no matter how much I twist and shout, I cannot find the other sleeve, and I bob and weave around the room like a wasp behind a screen. Or I’m trying to pull a sock off with arthritic hands and it gets stuck and I can’t get it past my heel. These futile and extremely frustrating efforts result in a string of emotionally charged words uttered with intense passion!

But more importantly, when we move patiently through the day with conscious deliberation it is easier to appreciate and take delight in the simple joys of life. The fact that we have the option to do so is itself a gift. I am not always successful, but I try to find a moment every day to celebrate whatever it is I’m doing at that moment. Each year the passage of time accelerates at a frightening rate, and patience is one way we can slow things down. Time is a commodity that increases in value the longer live, and once it is spent it cannot be replaced.

Of course, there is no predicting the course our life will take, and how we will react to it. A funny thing happened when I turned 80. I became more comfortable with my age, and more secure about my future than I was during the previous 10 years. It feels like the previous decade was all about preparing me for the next one.

Another surprises waiting for me was recognizing some less than admirable character attributes that I am not proud of.  I prefer to think they are the recent results of my age, and not part of the person I have always been. A sobering experience for someone who thinks highly of himself.

There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with being 80 years or older that I can understand but find hard to justify. We suddenly revert to our childhood attitude toward age when we were so proud of being five and a half years old. Look at me. I’m 85 years old!
















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