15 Thoughts on Growing Old

  1. Vintage Grunge Still LifeThere are people who will tell you that you are only as old as you feel. These are the same people who swear that you are not 40+ years old, but rather 40+ years young. They are forever saying things like, “Aging is a state of mind.” All I can say is this: Those people must have been born with some amazing genetics because they apparently don’t feel as old as I do. Yes, you are only as old as you feel and, at some point between age 30-something and 40-something, my body started to feel old. Because my eyes lost their ability to focus, I have to ask my kid — an actual young person — to read ingredient labels for me. What’s more, I’m starting to think of my hip bone, my low back, and my feet in the same way some people think of cherished family members who just can’t seem to pull their lives together. Not long ago, I told myself that age was just a state of mind, and then I proceeded to play kick ball with a bunch of true young people. Well, I was rounding third base when I pulled a muscle in my back and my knee. I hopped my way to home. You want to know how I felt as I was limping around for a few days? Well, it wasn’t young.
  2. There are stages in life when you want time to speed up: when you are a kid waiting for Santa, a teen waiting for age 16 and a driver’s license, a young adult waiting to graduate from college, a young parent waiting for that the toddler to stop picking up quarters and eating them for breakfast. But when you are officially no longer young, you no longer wish for time to speed up. No, once you are no longer young, you find yourself wishing that time would just slow down. You see photos on Facebook of children that you remember holding as babies and now they are graduating from college and you know you should be happy for them — and really you are, mostly, sort of, yes mostly — but there’s still this part of you that’s all like: Why couldn’t you still be a baby? You know it’s illogical, this not wanting children to ever grow up. But, still. The heart wants what the heart wants.
  3. I don’t believe young people ever say things like, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”
  4. When you are young, 10 years feels like the span of time between the big bang and the annihilation of the dinosaurs. When you are not-so-young, 10 years goes by in the span of time it takes you to learn how to use a piece of technology that has already become obsolete.
  5. And technology? I can only assume that young people look forward to every new invention. When you are not-so-young, new technology reminds you of that dream where you are back in college and taking a test for a class that you forgot to attend all semester and you don’t remember where you put your number two pencil and even if you did it wouldn’t matter because you can’t even see the little circles you are supposed to fill in because your reading glasses only exist in your waking life. That dream.
  6. I’m pretty sure true young people no longer take tests using number two pencils, but I can’t say for sure.
  7. I’m also pretty sure true young people never say things like, “OMG I found a floppy disc in my basement. I wonder what’s on it!”
  8. When you tell a truly young person that there was a time when you heard — errarrhhgrreeeahchzzz — for a really long time before you could connect to the Internet, they just can’t wrap their minds around it. When you tell them that, before the Internet, people read books and talked to each other in person, they accuse you of lying. After all, there has always been an Internet.
  9. True young people can type “k?” and not feel even the smallest sensation that there is something so wrong with what they just typed.
  10. When you are young, you might declare various things about yourself to be true. You might, for example, walk around telling people, “I’m into minimalism.” When you are not-so-young, you declare nothing about yourself because you find your self pretty dang confusing. What? You’re feeling nostalgic? You’re saving your dog’s old tooth because….? You just don’t know what is true anymore, if anything at all.
  11. When you are young, your brain works, pretty much all the time. It even works when you abuse it by staying up all night long. When you are not-so-young, people tell you to write things down so you can more easily remember them. But when you try to follow this advice, you write things down and then you forget where you put your list. Sometimes you forget that you even have a list. So instead you rely on a young person — quite often your own child — to remember all your important things for you. “Remind me what you want for your birthday closer to your birthday,” you tell this person. Or, “Don’t let me forget to call Grandma for Mother’s Day.” Or, “Young person with amazing young brain, remind of of the password for the home alarm system, will you?” This is one reason why you want time to slow down and kids to stop aging. If this child grows up, no one in your house will ever be able to log into anything ever again. 
  12. Oh, and let’s talk about nostalgia. That’s one of the most perverse things about being not-so-young anymore. You find yourself wistfully caught up in memories that you didn’t even enjoy the first time around. You find yourself looking at old photos and thinking, “Oh, he was so adorable as a little baby.” Suddenly you want to hold him again, do it all over again, go back in time, have him be a baby. You think of that time he threw up on you in the middle of the grocery store and you’re like, “Aw, wish I could go right back to that! Aw! So precious! Why did he have to get big?”
  13. When you are young, you have no idea why not-so-young people say things like, “Youth is wasted on the youth.” When you are not-so-young? You don’t understand how young people could ever not understand this expression.
  14. When you are young, you care about things like whether someone puts the cap back on the toothpaste. When you are not so young, you’re just happy that your spouse is still alive and that you don’t need to brush his teeth for him. Or vice versa. Yet.
  15. Of course, age is relative. When you are middle aged and you happen to be visiting a 90 year old in a nursing home, you’re a baby. When you are the same age and you are volunteering at your kid’s school, you’re ancient. So, no, you are not only as old as you feel. You are only as old as the person standing next to you.

 

4 comments… add one

  • Marilyn Bauman August 9, 2014, 10:28 am

    I love this post. I awoke this morning delighted I had slept well, and I had slept well because I was using a new mouth piece that alleviates sleep apnea, a condition I have probably had for a long time (ask my husband), but only had diagnosed a year ago. The mouth piece is a “mouthful,” and when I first tried to insert it, I doubted I could stand it. But, like everything else to do with aging, one does what one has to do. Still, as well as I slept, I still got irritated with another condition (I will spare you the details), but it has to do with bowel function. I got so irritated, I lost all my former “peaceful pleasure” regarding the sleep apnea issue. One malady corrected, another pops up. As I took a meditative walk on this unusually beautiful August day, I wondered why “falling apart” bit by bit, even if just a nuisance, upsets me so. It did not take long to connect the “falling apart” events to the reason: this is the descent into oblivion I would very much rather not think about. So this post, a record of the humor in aging, was just what my doctor would have ordered.

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  • William August 9, 2014, 10:37 am

    Your point #8 about the ever changing world of technology reminds me of the annual Beloit College Mindset List, which lists the people, places and things that the current college freshmen identify with – or don’t identify with, as the case may be!

    (www.beloit.edu/mindset/previouslists/2016/)

    Reply
  • Ron M. August 9, 2014, 12:01 pm

    Getting old, where do I start? I can’t remember. It’s true; my train of thought has gotten shorter. I’m not quite down to an engine and a caboose, yet. But, I can see that day coming. My dad is about to turn ninety four and is still living on his own. He has been in denial about his age for years. He said he never really felt old until he lost mom a couple of years ago. For years he talked about old people, many much younger than he. My kids and grandkids would joke about his perceived immortality. The joke is no longer funny. As he struggles between independence and turning more things over to me, I too can see the writing on the wall.
    At thirty, I quit playing football. I played basketball until almost forty-five. At age fifty, I still played soft-ball for my church team (short stop). However, the pain from the repeated pulled muscles eventually got the best of me. Now, at sixty, I’m down to golf and the occasional tennis game. The man whose gate, I remember, I could at one time not match now slows my pace. Everyone says, I’m just like him. To me, that’s a complement.
    What’s the point? The point is that while none of us want to go, as Dylan Thomas put it, “quietly into that good night”, we all will. The best advice is, live each day the best you can, and leave good footprints. I feel truly fortunate to be able to give back to my dad, and to be a positive influence for my wife and family (which now includes grandkids). Today, I help wherever I can, in both directions on the family tree. Someday, God willing, I know I will be well cared for. Carpe Diem!

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  • Lois Hjelmstad August 9, 2014, 3:04 pm

    And when you’re 84, you take it for granted that things aren’t going to work as well as you’d like; you get up and go anyway; you’re grateful for each and every day.

    In many ways, it gets easier.
    Lois Hjelmstad´s last blog post ..Transition to Cancer Survivor

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