What I am referring to, of course, is Nature’s fiendish plan to move us inexorably from supple liveliness to creaky decrepitude. Yes, aging. [Incidentally, I am 73—very old.]
As we age, we tend to focus on health. We will eagerly present extensive accounts of our physical complaints which some refer to as an “organ recital.” Some folks impose the “five-minute rule,” limiting how long one is permitted to discuss back pain, bladder problems, dental woes, digestive distress, balance issues, or delusional thinking that one is presidential material.
However, keep in mind that no matter how solicitous or sympathetic people are when they ask about your health, they really are just waiting for you to shut up so they can tell you how much more painful, debilitating and baffling to medical science their diseases are compared to the pathetic ailments that you’ve just been whining about.
From my own health perspective, I am particularly proud of not having reached my athletic peak until middle-age because most all the people that I know who were sports stars in their youth have aged into new knees, new shoulders, new hips and new ankles and now set off alarms at airports, office buildings and prisons.
I can still move although, like many of my aged peers, when I get up in the morning, my movements tend to be in the category of awkward robot-like lurching, or perhaps I’m a reincarnation of the Tin Woodsman waiting for Dorothy to apply the oilcan so I can move again and accompany her to Emerald City. (Being so much more modern, I prefer to squirt WD-40 in my joints rather than oil.).
There are those who just surrender to the aging process and take up the sports of last resort: golf and pickle ball.
Forget about DWI, it’s DWVO (Driving While Very Old) that poses the greatest threat to mankind. The most frightening place in America is the supermarket parking lot on Route 130 in East Windsor, where just walking from car to store is incredibly risky. So many of the nonagenerian drivers can’t see over the steering wheel, can’t turn their arthritic necks to look behind them and tend to have the reflexes of a two-toed sloth.
Their driving strategies include backing up and hoping no one will die. Based on no data or scientific study (I could be president after all), I ascribe this high-risk environment to the parking lot’s proximity to the Monroe Township retirement communities.
Then, again, the range of motion in my neck aint so good, so who am I to talk.
As we age, our musical tastes change. At some point, all new music sounds the same. (“You call that music! That’s not music.”) I stopped being able to distinguish between contemporary music and undifferentiated notes around 1978. Once the timeless classics produced by Dicky Do and the Don’ts, Nino and the Ebbtides, Reparata and the Delrons Question Mark and the Mysterians or Derek and the Dominoes had faded, everything sounded like the white noise machines that the elderly use as a sleep aid. Oh, all right, Clapton should not be grouped with the other half-hit wonders.
Of course, the viability of one’s hearing, not the music, might be the issue. One of the great advantages or disadvantages of aging, depending upon one’s degree of misanthropy, is the loss of otic acuity. “What? What? Stop mumbling!” Little children also go through a stage where they respond to every statement with, “What?” But little ones can be discouraged by threatening to send them to the “What Room.”
There are, of course, upsides to aging. Cantankerousness, irascibility, growling, intolerance, and being set in one’s ways—all the qualities that we used to despise—can now be claimed as ours and indulged in peace.
And there is even more to look forward to by aging, foremost of which is the nap. Humankind was meant to nap. We nap at age one, and we nap at age seventy-one. This is what’s called the circle of life.
In despair? It is possible to prepare for aging at any age by employing a method requiring only modest skill: groaning. You can groan when standing up. You can groan when sitting down. You can groan reaching for a glass of beer, after eating too big a liverwurst sandwich or in response to a bad joke. (It is acceptable to occasionally substitute sighing for groaning.)
Not only does groaning make you feel better, but it irritates everyone around you which is, indeed, one of the most desirable and satisfying objectives of aging.
Robin Schore lives in Titusville.