Aging Gracelessly Redux…. 

 

Oh,  I’m feelin’ it this mornin’, the morning after my weekly visit with Hawk.  Five miles on the Swamp Rabbit, solving all the world’s problems before enjoying an after-walk cup of coffee at the Tree House.  That’s just in case it’s been a problematic week and we need more time to solve those problems.  Lately, they’ve all been problematic, and no one listens to us anyway…well, they listen to us at the Tree House and that’s one of the reasons we keep going.  They think we are the bee’s knees.

Yeah, I’m feelin’ it as in feeling old, very old.

I do about twenty-five miles of walking during the week hoping to put distance between myself and the ominous figure caring the old-fashioned scythe.  Despite my best efforts, the distance between us is shortening.  As Hawk continues to tell me, “We ain’t gettin’ out of this alive.”  No, but I’m going out kicking and screaming…just like he is.  I want to be a burden on my child and grandchildren for a long time.

Hawkday Friday is the only day of the week I set an alarm and it throws my whole system out of whack.  Aging creates creatures of habit, I guess.  I am so out of sorts waiting for the Big Ben to go off.  “Did I remember to wind it?” Am I the only guy who must get up two hours ahead of time to make sure all systems “are a go?”  Friday mornings my “systems” always send out messages.  “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” 

I take my wife a cup of coffee at five-thirty because she is as crazy as I am and invariably, she mutters, “I don’t know why in the “firetruck” y’all can’t walk at a decent hour.”  I don’t know either except that it is easier to deal with my own disfunction than Hawk’s.  “And besides, you went to high school with him and learned similar dysfunctions.” He wants to walk at six to keep away from the sun and just because. I want to walk at seven-thirty to get into the sun and just because.  Opposites do attract.

So, I’m up at three-thirty and feeling like a dead man.  I had trouble falling asleep.  Late at one end of the day, early at the other makes for a grumbly old guy.  I could blame Hawk’s goofiness but to be honest, it’s just as much mine.  “How long before the alarm goes off?”

Who lays awake worrying about lying awake?  I do, that’s who.  When my bladder drives me out of bed in the middle of the night I worry about when the alarm is going off.  “Don’t look at your watch, you’ll only worry about going back to sleep.  Don’t look I said.  You’re a dumbass, you looked.  Jeez, I gotta get up in an hour.”  I might as well get up now, all I’m going to do is worry about having to get up.  Jeez, forty-five minutes, thirty minutes, etc. and finally I fall back to sleep…thirty seconds before the alarm goes off.

I feel as though I have been beaten.  My aging body has become an alien thing…as alien as Ripley’s Alien Queen and just as nasty at times.  An ever-changing sack of tiny aches and pains, a “thousand little paper cuts” kind of agony.  Nothing major, just my sagging bag of bones letting me know what I did yesterday, maybe the day before, maybe the hit I took in a football game fifty years ago.

Once I jumped out of bed in anticipation of the day to come, now I ease-out, one toe at a time, hoping I don’t pull something before my feet hit the floor.

Sagging bag of bones…. Did you know besides your hair and nails, your nose and ears are the only body parts that continue to grow as you age?  I don’t mean stretch as in sag…that’s kind of funny looking.  It would be funnier if it was someone else. Damn you gravity.

I mean body parts that actually continue to increase in size.  God must have a twisted sense of humor.  If I live long enough, I’m gonna look like a caricature of Ross Perot…according to the mirror, I already do.  A truly loving God would have given me hope in another area and a reason to get rid of my big ole four by four.

Every morning I wake up as the dark-headed, dark bearded young man of forty years ago.  I walk into the bathroom and yell in my head, “Don’t look in the mirror.  Don’t do it!  Boo, you looked.”  The vision in my head is a mirage, replaced by the image in the harsh light of the mirror.  An old guy with a bigger nose and ears than last night, with less hair and more wrinkles turning into crevasses.

Still, as Hawk and I discussed, we are better off than a lot of our peers.  We’re still mobile, hostile, agile…and delusional.  Youth is a state of mind and we are still in diapers…or are heading back to diapers?  We still have a childlike wonder about the world.  We still wonder what we are going to do when we grow up.

I’m a gluten for punishment and out of habit I walk again this morning.  I walk alone with my earbuds until I meet a pretty blond runner, her long ponytail bouncing, blue eyes twinkling.  For a moment I remember being thirty.  As I continue my walk, we pass each other three more times.

Finally, I ask, “How far are you going today?”

A big smile followed, “I’m doing eleven.”

I shook my head and returned her smile, “I remember those days, long runs on Saturdays.”

“How far are you walking?”

“Near five.”  She smiled, gave me a thumbs up and shouted “Great job” before continuing on her way.

My heart melted a bit and I thought, “You know your knees feel pretty good.  Maybe a little running next week. Maybe if I’m careful I can do a marathon by the time I grow up.”  I don’t know, I’m sure a nap will cure those thoughts.

For the clarification of those who don’t live in the area:

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is a fitness trail that runs from above Travelers Rest, SC through Greenville, SC.  It was named after and follows the route of a short spur railway once called The Swamp Rabbit.

The Tree House is the Tree House Cafe and Studio, which sits next to the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest.  Great coffee, sandwiches, great service, and great company.

Don Miller writes on various subjects, non-fictional and fictional, and can be found at  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

Lena Christenson, Don Miller’s feminine pen, has released a new book, Dark Tempest, a suspenseful romance with a hint of the erotic.  Lena can found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

The image, Old Man Loves Smoking Cigars, is by Greg Cartmell and may be purchased at https://gregcartmell.com/product/old-man-loves-smoking-cigars/

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Don’t Let The Old Man In….

 

I didn’t recognize the face in the mirror.  It sorta looks like me.  Five in the morning is not the best time to look into the mirror but at my age, it’s better than seeing myself in the harsh sunlight.  The face wasn’t “the brown-eyed handsome man” that Chuck Berry sang about sixty-one years ago.  This face is cut by crevasses covered by a wild beard.  The brown eyes sit above “steamer trunks,” not bags.  What hair there is, is now more silver than brown…as is a beard that was once redder than white.  My eyes are still brown and, in my mind, behind those eyes, somewhere, is a young, “brown-eyed handsome man.”

I’m looking down the barrel at another birthday.  Can you tell?  One month from today.  Another year older.  The grim reaper another year closer.  Can it be another year already?  As I look back…into the mirror and the old gentleman looking back at me, I realize a time versus age graph would show a steeper line after the age of fifty than before.  Time flies when you are having fun…and growing old.  Yes, I know there is another alternative.

Looking back into the mirror I realize, “that old geezer wants to get at me.”  He wants to be me…or rather, he wants me to be him.  I refuse to invite him to do so.

I have always been a people watcher…particularly attractive female people, a kink in my sterling armor.  Recently I’ve begun to look at older people I know, OLD people my age.  I always think, “I don’t look that old do I?”  I even asked my best friend Hawk, “Do we look that old?”  He said no…but then he’s just a year younger than me.  Would he lie?

I hear a tap, tap, tap.  Is it the hot water line that needs to be tightened or the old man in the mirror?  He wants me to invite him in.  No, no, no!  I’m going to keep dancing badly until I die…even if it is dancing from the seat of a chair.  Maybe I won’t be able to run, but then I’ll walk, or I’ll crawl or do invisible snow angels in the middle of the floor….  Too many people die because they are afraid to live.  I will not invite that old coot in.

I awoke to the groans my father made, so many years ago…except they are coming from me.  Snap, crackle, pop go my joints as I try to get out of bed.  Once I get moving I do okay.  Is that the lesson from my ruminations this morning?

The “brown eyed handsome man” in my head thinks he can still do anything.  I’m listening to him.  I’m going to keep doing my thing…just a bit more slowly.  Like a wind-up toy, the spring will wind down or break sometimes, but sometime could be a long way off.

I just learned that a friend’s cancer has returned and invaded his esophagus. He has battled cancer for years, battled it with a joyous heart and a cheerful and exuberant attitude.   I hope and pray he is able to beat it but the cards are stacked against him. He has never let the old man in…for eighty-five years.

A piano player, he always reminded me of Hoagy Carmichael’s Cricket in “To Have and Have Not.”  I’ll bet Charlie will be playing the piano, cracking jokes, dancing or doing snow angels on the floor until they carry him out. I’ll miss him when he goes but I won’t mourn for him because he kept the old man out of his life.  Maybe I can get him to play “Am I Blue” one more time.

Yessir!  I’m going to be like Charlie.  I will never let that old man I see in the mirror in.

Video credit: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C1vJ2Z8aI0

Photo credit:  Hoagy Carmichael and  Lauren Bacall                    https://indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow/rainbow-hits-ground-hoagy-carmichael-hollywood/

Don Miller’s writer’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller, writing as Kena Christenson, may be found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19