Old is as Old Does

old man

New year, new you, right? In my case it’s not so much trying to be something ‘new’ as it is simply keeping the ‘old’ at bay. I have yet to reach that mystical plateau where I bask in a zen-like acceptance of my gray hair and turkey-neck. The way I look at it, why else would God have created Just For Men and botox?

This started over a decade ago, when I turned 50, fueling speculation as to how much longer I was entitled to refer to myself as “middle-aged.” Granted, some scientists believe the first person to live to 150 has already been born, but it’s highly unlikely I am he. And with the average life expectancy sitting at not quite 80 years old, I’m rapidly leaving the “middle” in the dust.

Now 60 is in my rear-view mirror. Sixty. I hate the very sound of it. The first time I said it out loud, answering a query about my age, it was like someone else was speaking. And I’m quite certain the twenty-something medical receptionist who posed the question began to talk louder and more deliberately at that point.

The millennials aren’t the only ones giving me up for dead. Madison Avenue has done the same, most notably when it comes to my, uh, equipment. The pharmaceutical hucksters are constantly disparaging its battle readiness and flow capabilities. And the algorithms seem to think that the only other products I have a need for are walk-in bathtubs and life alert buttons.

To make us feel better, we boomers tell ourselves things like “Sixty is the new forty” or “Age is just a number.” All I know is, my number is getting pretty unwieldy. Besides, those phrases seem a little hollow once you start receiving reminders in the mail that it’s time to have your prostate probed again.

Even so, the one thing I promised myself never to utter was “I’m too old for this shit” (regardless of whatever it was I might be doing at the time). I’ve always tried to stay active – not a slave to exercise, just enough so they’ll never have to knock down a wall of my house and pluck me out of my bed with a crane.

And with the exception of an ugly snowboarding incident that left me with a piece of angle iron screwed to my wrist bone, the plan appears to be working. All my parts seem to be in good functioning order, and I don’t make any grunting noises when I get into or out of an easy chair. In fact, I get a fair amount of comments about how good I look, comments that are always followed by the phrase “…for your age.” I’m assuming that’s meant as a compliment. To be honest, I’m just happy to be able to look myself in the mirror these days and not wince, except perhaps at the general thickening of the hair on my back, as what used to be boyish peach fuzz now more closely resembles a badger pelt.

I’m certainly not leading the charge. Maybe it was the old Nike commercials, imploring us to Just Do It. But these days more and more geriatric sorts are turning up on TV, stumbling glassy-eyed through the Hawaiian darkness – miles from the finish line – as the Ironman Triathlon comes to a close or being air-lifted out of Patagonia after they were thrown by their alpaca and broke a hip while competing in the Amazing Race, defeated but somehow better for having made the attempt. One of those epic “things to do before I die” undertakings that could actually cause your death.

And living in Colorado, there are plenty of ways for a person to test oneself physically. So in the summer I climb things like the Manitou Incline or the occasional 14er, and in the winter I cross-country ski up in the mountains. This year I plan to break in a new pair of snowshoes before the spring thaw.

Is it dangerous at my age? There was a story I read a few years ago, about an 80 year old woman who died while on a hike into the Grand Canyon. She lost her footing, slipped off the trail and, well, it’s a long way down. So, yeah, stuff happens. But if I had my druthers, I’d rather swan dive into the Grand Canyon than have a coronary and quietly sink beneath the waves in my walk-in bathtub.

Am I trying to prove something? Maybe just that the less you do, the less you can do, and I plan on doing a lot. Right up until my alpaca tosses me off a cliff.

15 thoughts on “Old is as Old Does

  1. I’m rapidly approaching the big 6 0 myself and am not looking forward to it in the least. It seems like a milestone somehow. Welcome to Oldville, grab a shawl.
    I agree with you though, the secret is to keep moving!

  2. Oh… swan diving into the Grand Canyon or seizing up and sinking beneath the waves in a walk-in bathtub… I think I’d go with the bathtub. I still love to hike and exercise, but thinking about those last moments watching the earth rapidly rising up towards my face scares the bejibiz out of me. I’d take passing out in a warm bath anyday. 60+ ain’t so bad and you look great… for your age 🙂

  3. Honestly? Life is dangerous. Anything can happen. But I swear I’d take mountain climbing or downhill skiing over driving in Houston traffic. The odds of not coming out of the evening rush hour whole and intact are a lot greater than anything that’s going to happen to me in the woods.

    I’ve told this story a couple of times, but it fits with what you’ve written, so I’ll do it again. If you’re read it, forgive me.

    I used to take my mother to her doctor appointments, and would go into the exam room with her, since she never could remember what he said. One day, she decided to settle one of our arguments by calling in reinforcements. She said to the doc, “How long can this daughter of mine keep varnishing boats for a living? Shouldn’t she be thinking about quitting?” He looked me over and said, “Well, actually — if she keeps on doing it, she can probably keep doing it as long as she wants.”

    And there you have it. Keep moving.

    • And move I shall.

      I will absolutely take my chances ‘out there’ as opposed to here in the ‘real’ world. And should something unfortunate happen, c’est la vie. The story I like to share is from Edward Abbey’s ‘Desert Solitaire,’ when he is pressed into service to look for a ‘tenderfoot’ who has gone missing in Utah’s desolate canyon country. When the search party finally locates the man’s body, under a juniper, looking out over the vastness of nature, even curmudgeony Abbey has to admit that the guy couldn’t have picked a much nicer place to cash out.

      May I be so lucky.

  4. We have been thinking along the same lines, haven’t we? But I agree: getting older is hard, but we don’t have to stop living out lives because of it. I think we should keep right on living life as fully as we possibly can, and enjoying every minute of it!

    • There is an ongoing argument here as to whether we should be referred to as ‘Coloradans’ or ‘Coloradoans’ so take your pick. And, yes, it takes a little more work to maintain my activity levels, but I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Once you stop, you may never get started again.

  5. “I’d rather swan dive into the Grand Canyon than quietly seize up and sink beneath the waves in my walk-in bathtub” — me too. But I got a non-slip mat in the tub, which I did not need before. I agree, use it or lose it. You’re doin it up right!

  6. Pingback: In Search of Roads Less Traveled | Lies Jack Kerouac told Me

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