I always thought that other people got old, not me. The joint pain in my hands has made it difficult to turn back the clock. Father Time what’s your deal? I’ve given you the best years of my life and this is how you repay me? I guess I first realized I was getting old that morning I looked in the mirror, then ran to grab my gun, believing there was some old creepy intruder in my house. Thank God I realized in time that the “intruder” was just me.
At some point in life you realize you’re no Spring chicken anymore. As a matter of fact, the spring in your step has now turned into more of shuffle and, sadly, you’ve become a Fall hen. Case in point, you contemplate for a good five minutes about the best way on how to bend over to pick something up. You pay closer attention to drug commercials, like Lipitor and Lunesta. You gasp for breath from putting on your pants — the hardest part being the tugging of the waistband and the buttoning of said pants. It’s like you’re wrestling yourself as you crouch, stand on one leg, lay vertical on the bed, just trying to get that button through that little slit while your amorphous belly’s mumbling, “This ain’t happening. I’m telling you, it is not happening.”
The tummy area is a real trouble spot as you get older. At some point, your tight ab muscles decide to retire and flab fills the role. The Ness sisters move in: pudginess, chubbiness, and plumpness. You’re not sure whether to see a surgeon about liposuction, or a mechanic to remove the spare tire around your waist and put it on another vehicle. What you used to eat in a day you must now space out over a month. Diet books become required reading. A popular one is The 30–90; that’s where for thirty days you can eat whatever you want then for ninety days you can’t eat anything (Many do well at the beginning then lose willpower after thirty-one days then start all over again). You start to feel like just thinking about going to work-out is really just as good as working out. After all, it’s the thought that counts.
The body makes sounds it never used to make. What is that clicking in the bones? Why do I groan every time I reach for something or push a computer key? Why do I have muscle aches from just lying on the couch? I guess watching TV really is bad for you. When you were younger, your bones and muscles would ache because you did something strenuous the day before, like yard work, rebuilding an engine, or jogging five miles. Now, muscles ache just for the hell of it. You wonder why your back hurts then it dawns on you — you decided to get out of bed in this morning.
What the hell are all these lines on my face? Did I sleep on my pillow wrong? It’s frightening. Somehow your face has turned into an Atlas road map with more and more streets being added every year. Your crow’s feet have turned into legs. You go from wrinkle creams, to Botox, to sandblasting. You’ve got the plastic surgeon on speed dial for any meltdown moments. Every frown and smile in life, you now regret. Why couldn’t you have just remained stoned-face throughout your youth? “Yes, my brand new baby boy looks wonderful,” you stoically say to the nurse. I think the face should be off limits to age. Why don’t the feet get the wrinkles? You can look at someone’s face and guess-timate how old they are. Why can’t we be like trees where the only way you know how old we are is to cut us in half and count the rings in our body? It’s just not fair. You know things are starting to fall apart when you go to the airport and the ticket agent asks you if you’ll be checking the bags under your eyes. You smile and say, “Have they, by chance, made the seats wider?”
As a man, you wonder where all your hair is going. It was hair today, but gone tomorrow. You realize it’s not really gone, it’s just now taken a different route… through your ears. This is why I doubt the evolution theory. What benefit to mankind is hairy ears, unless you live in Green Bay where it’s always cold. With my tummy getting fatter and the balding, I’m beginning to think that maybe I eat my hair while I’m sleeping. Does hair have a lot of carbs? The hair you do have left, starts turning grey and it now becomes harder to lie about your age. “Oh this, I was painting the garage and a bucket of silver paint spilled on my head. I’m really only forty-one.” The grey is like an infection. It invades your chest, beard, nose and the backs of Persians. Forget Ebola, where’s the grey vaccine? They may make a movie about my head; “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
It’s not just the body, with old age the mind starts to diminish too. I have to make lists to remind myself what I need to do the next day. Things like do the dishes, fold clothes, feed the cat, etc. When the next day comes, I forget where I put my list so I spend the day making another list while the dishes remain piled in the sink, with a basket of clothes on the couch, and a meowing cat following me around the house while I mumble, “What did I come in this room to get?” My memory isn’t what it used to be. Maybe it’s true that beer really does kill brain cells. Either that, or they have migrated to the buttocks to spend some time with their cellulite cousins.
Maybe I don’t want to remember things. Usually when you remember something it means work. I forgot the tomatoes at the store. I forgot to take out the trash. I forgot to pick the kids up from school. Once you remember, guess who has to go do this stuff? You and your wrinkly, flabby body, that’s who. It’s not that you’re lazy, even though you are, but as we get older our energy levels decrease. You get tired just having to copy and paste something on the computer. Getting a glass of water becomes a chore. You sit on the couch plotting the easiest route to the refrigerator. Could you imagine if it was like the olden days where we had to actually get up and change the TV channel? I cringe at the thought. That remote control inventor guy should’ve gotten a Nobel Peace Prize.
I don’t know when it happened, but I stopped seeing things I used to see. Little things like chairs, stop signs, and cars coming at me. My world became blurry. It’s like all of a sudden my eyes said, “Alright, we’ve seen enough in our life time. That’s it.” There’s nothing worse than sitting in a crowded restaurant waving across the room to someone you recognize only to realize, after squinting, that it’s not who you thought it was. The perplexed individual looks at you like a drunk buffoon as your spasmodic waving hand slowly drops on your head while you pretend to fix your hair. You finally go to the eye doctor and he tells you to read the big lettered chart. You’re like, “Great. And the chart would be…?” “Right in front of you,” he responds. You know you’ve gotten old when you have to slip on those little reader glasses to see your dinner bill that you keep pushing and pulling towards your eyes to find the optimal distance to read it. And you’re really old when you start griping about how much the apple pie cost.
Perhaps the worst thing about getting older is that you become grumpier. Nobody around you can do anything right. People annoy you more than ever. Staying home and reading a book trumps going out to a dinner party and making idle chit-chat about how the kids are doing. You’re just tired of saying, “They’re all idiots. None of them can doing anything right.” You stay in while your back goes out. Somewhere along the time line, you started walking around the house turning off lights and mumbling, “Who the hell keeps turning on these lights?” forgetting it was you who was in the room last. Whenever you watch the news you wonder what the hell this country is coming to. The grumpier you become is where you find your happiness. But age is like fine wine, after being left out so many years you get soured.
There is no such thing as aging gracefully. It’s a curse that we all must endure. They say age is just a number; if that’s the case, then I choose 21. Of course my body vehemently disagrees, but I can dream. I just can’t dunk a basketball. Once in a while you try and relive the old days by doing something stupid like lifting a heavy box of Styrofoam peanuts only to wind up in hospital with a pulled groin. The morphine helps you to realize that your mind made a promise that your body couldn’t keep.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “When things are inevitable, just enjoy it.” It seems like good advice to follow, even though I’m not Chinese. There is no doubt that life will take its toll on all of us, as evident by the wrinkles, the greys, and the aches. It’s hard to say how much we’ve really aged; when you get old, you’re just like the baby you once were: you can’t walk, you drool, and you have to wear diapers. How we handle change is what’s important. The good thing is that you’re never too old to laugh or smile, or even enjoy the smallest of things. No matter what you look like, you will always be you… and sometimes that’s a good thing. My advice is to just embrace getting older… and throw out every mirror and scale in the house.
by Jeff Charlebois