Remember when you had little kids running around the house, learning to talk, learning to walk/run and learning to use the toilet? The cute toddler would come running up to you and say “Daddy (or Mommy) I went poo-poo in the potty and it was real big.” Or something similar to that. Well folks, someday (hopefully) you’ll live long enough to learn just how much old age is like those toddler years. A good movement will be the highlight of your day. Any movement at all will be noteworthy.
Yesterday my dear wife and I were in a checkout line where senior citizen discounts are offered. My wife said to the clerk “Make sure we get the senior discount.” The clerk looked at me. “And how old are you sir?” For the life of me I could not manage to say the three syllables that she wanted to hear. “Se-e-e-v-en-en-t-t-t-y” I finally managed to croak. When I was in my sixties, even when I was sixty-nine, I could utter my age. But something happened when I entered the seventh decade. It was like going through a very large, very thick door into a room full of darkness. Some of my friends and relatives made it to this age and didn’t seem to be bothered. Others never did make it to this age (lots of those folks) and of course they never had to worry about it. But here I am, spending far too much time considering the realities of actual old age.
And as I consider these realities I see (as in the example in the first paragraph) just how many things seem to be repeats of stuff that happened way back in early childhood. Get a knee or hip replacement, as so many seniors seem to do, and be treated to the ordeal of learning to walk again. Lose your teeth and learn the delights of soft foods as you wait for new dentures. Relate an interesting story or joke and learn that you don’t know the words to describe just how big the thing you seem to need in the punch line really was. Language is once again a mystery.
And we won’t mention bodily processes and abilities that have faded even more than our command of language. Of course, there are many seventy-plus seniors who have retained most of their physical and mental faculties. A few have daily exercise regimens that include running, walking, weight lifting or swimming. Still others pursue the more sedentary sport of golf which mostly consists of driving a golf cart a few feet for the next poorly hit fairway shot. I suppose enough swings could count as a form of exercise. But, for many of us, daily exercise is just too much trouble. In my case mowing the lawn with my push mower and weed trimmer, splitting and stacking firewood, shoveling snow and slow ambles on rural dirt roads will have to be enough. If the exercise doesn’t have an immediately visible result (other than sweat and swearing) then I don’t have time for it. Also, I need my physical activity to a keep my mind at least minimally occupied. If my mind is idle then it wanders back behind that big thick door I mentioned earlier.
Spending too much time peeking into dark corners of that hidden room is too scary a business. It’s in there that we consider questions like these. Burial or cremation, what’s the best choice? Is the will up to date? Should I write my own obituary and eulogy? And those are just the practical questions. There are also the big metaphysical questions. Is Heaven more like farm country or Las Vegas? Is Hell more like Los Angeles or Las Vegas? How long are the lines to those afterlife existences? Will I have to say my age out loud? And what about judgement? Is judgement more like being on Judge Judy’s show or more like pleading a case at the Supreme Court?
Well, I’m going to go do some exercise right now and try to prolong my time in this mortal place. I think I’ll bend my elbow a few times while holding a gradually diminishing container of goodness. How’s that for a metaphoric closing?
Now have a fine day.