Next month I turn 64. As far as I’m concerned that, officially, makes me an old man.
A child of the 1960s and ’70s, I grew up with the Beatles and, in 1967, they released the landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. One of the tracks on the album was the tune “When I’m 64.” It’s a bittersweet, plaintive ballad, the singer (Paul McCartney) asking his youthful love if she’ll still be with him when he becomes a rickety old goat. Believe it or not, McCartney wrote the song when he was 16 years old! It was one of the first full songs he’d ever written.
I recall seeing — in some magazine, I think — an artist’s conception of the four then-young Beatles when they would be 64. They were thicker, gray-haired, balding, and paunchy. They had bags under their eyes and sagging cheeks and jowls. The illustration was, in fact, a surprisingly accurate (it turns out) representation of what the years would do to them. The picture gave me the shivers. The Beatles, I gasped, were going to be old men!
Anyway, from the time I first heard the tune it became cemented in my consciousness that the age of 64 was incontrovertibly and inarguably…, well, old.
Having at last attained said age, I can truthfully say, Yep, that’s old, baby. My body’s falling apart, sometimes at a frightful pace, sometimes in small increments. I’m no longer the randy, hyper, toned, muscled, lithe, eager, agile, quick buck I once was. My body makes alarming noises when I stand up or sit down. At least a half dozen joints are as sore and achy as if I were recovering from being hit by a truck. I struggle with a congenitally malformed heart and am entering the fourth year of cancer remission, the aftereffects of chemoradiation still making themselves painfully evident every day. I need a new hip (at least), a couple of hernia repairs, another surgical procedure I’m loath to disclose, and, too often, I walk into a room and forget why In the hell I’ve done so. As for the randiness I once enjoyed, well, I remember those days fondly, like a lost love.
You might think this all depresses me. To a tiny extent it does. I wish I could go out and play centerfield again. I wish I could drink and chase women all night long and be able to get up the next morning without so much as a complaint. I wish I had the strength to ride my motorcycle again. I wish I could do a million things I did easily and without a care when I was 25 or 35 or even 45. But I can’t.
What I can do is draw upon six-plus decades of experience and wisdom. I can relax. I can concentrate on my writing for long hours at a time, something I was utterly unable to do when I was filled with vim. I can recognize the differences between emotion, knee-jerk reaction, and a rational consideration of whatever options I face. I have countless memories of things good and bad, all of which went into the making of me, like so many bricks in a wall.
Am I afraid of dying? You bet. But I don’t think about it all the time. My denial mechanism is finely tuned (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to survive with my sanity, such as it is, intact). When I do think about those last frightful moments, I quickly shake my head and resolve to live every remaining day — hell, every remaining second — to the fullest.
Truth is, I like growing older. I like growing old.
Our American consumer culture constantly hammers the message into us that aging is a disease, something to be avoided, an ugly condition for which there are any number of balms, lotions, pills, injections, gym memberships, diets, psychotherapies, and countless other panaceas we can invest in and with which — hooray! — we can hope and pray to stay young and beautiful indefinitely.
Aging, in reality, is as much a definitive part of life as being born. Death is in the future of every single person alive. That consumer culture I refer to above? Too many of us have bought into its fictitious premise. I know people in their late 70s who say, “I’m not old!” To which I want to respond, “The hell you aren’t!”
I embrace oldness even as I occasionally daydream about chasing down a flyball or shifting my weight on my old Suzuki GS1100 as I negotiate a curve at 65 mph on a summer’s day in Wisconsin.
As R. Buckminster Fuller once sagely advised, Don’t fight forces; use them. The irresistible force of time hurtling me closer to the moment I’ll no longer be here isn’t something I’ll tilt against. Bring it on! And, it is to be dearly hoped, when I get to be, say, 77 or 78 years old, I’ll be smarter, wiser, more content, and 13 or 14 years more complete.
Do They Walk Among Us?
Here’s the link to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk featuring UFO experience researcher Susan Lepselter. The Loved One and I hold differing views on the topic of aliens visiting this hunk of mud and rock. We listened to the podcast together yesterday as we nibbled on our dinner. It was TLO who hipped me to Lepselter in the first place.
Consider this a reminder: I welcome and thoroughly enjoy getting suggestions about possible guests on Big Talk. The Loved One has been responsible for turning me on to a good dozen guests over the years. Friends, acquaintances, and social media cronies have suggested another dozen or two. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas. There is a Big Talk email account floating around somewhere but, truth be told, I rarely check it.