I am reminded, as I turn 74 (May 24th), of the old TV shows back in the ‘50’s when people my age would be described – with great solicitousness – as “74 years YOUNG.”
I am a geezer and proud of it. There are an awful lot of people that crawled out of the cradle about the same time as me who, well, ain’t here. Many of them were friends and acquaintances that never got the chance to marry and to have kids and grandkids. Some of them gave their lives for their country. Some died by accident, some by disease. No murders, thank God. My father, still the best man I ever met by a wide, wide margin, died at 58. I find myself in the somewhat embarrassing position of having outlived him by sixteen years and having been married now for sixteen more years than he and my Mom. Something wrong with that… but there it is.
I thought it fitting and proper (Lincoln would have said it that way, I think) to drop a few thoughts down here on what my thoughts and reflections are having attained this lofty age in this deteriorating but still serviceable carcass.
Here we go.
Getting Old (er)
It helps to have a well-developed sense of humor. You will wake up in the morning with aches and pains and, when you first stand up, probably a little dizzy spell. You will wake up in the middle of the night to urinate, to agitate yourself about something that never happened, or something that happened 25 years previously over which you had no control. You will watch yourself shrink within your skin so that it wrinkles and sags despite the fact that you “feel great.” You will forget the names of three of your best friends and your favorite athlete.
Welcome to geezerville!!
Things You Care Less About
1. What other people’s expectations are for you.
2. Attending guaranteed-to-be-boring cocktail receptions because they’re good
3. Going along with the crowd.
Things You Care More About
I heard Steve Martin interviewed about turning 50. He said that he was now finding himself much more concerned about the weather. I get it.
Other things I care more about at 74 than I may have previously:
1. Maintaining regular contact with old, long-term friends and acquaintances. Even
better: reconnecting with long-lost friends.
2. Contemplating my son, his wife, their twin girls, age 11 years and their son Jack,
age 4. Seeing how much our grandchildren love their daddy.
3. Staying healthy and reasonably fit. ..even if my titanium to calcium ratio is approaching 1:1.
Life’s Lessons (if there are any)
1. It’s almost never about you.
We tend to think the rest of the world spends its days and nights in
contemplation of ourselves. That every act of commission or omission is
noticed. Because we are all the lead actors in the movies of our lives, we
assume that all the bit players and members of the audience are transfixed
by the plot we are inhabiting.
Not so… and that’s a good thing.
In point of fact, we are the spear-carriers in everyone else’s movies. And,
in most of those films, we do not have speaking roles.
So relax. The world is not waiting – transfixed – upon your next move.
2. Misery is optional.
One of the biggest lessons in life – if you can get to it – is that most of the
emotions that make us unhappy only can be indulged by choice. We choose
to take offense; we decide to dwell on negative thoughts and emotions; we
select self-condemnation instead of self-forgiveness when we’ve transgressed.
I would wager that 70% of human misery is optional – but actively chosen or
Great quote (from Mark Twain, I think): “I’ve had a lot of trouble in my life.
Most of it never happened.”
3. The best things in life are not things.
We constantly hear stories about the hugely wealthy and famous person who
has taken their own life. We ask ourselves: “How can that be?”
It happens because happiness has very little to do with material things, success,
wealth, or fame. It’s an internal state that can be achieved by anyone, regardless
Because we inhabit a culture with the shallowest possible value system, this
can seem counter-intuitive… but only if you’re not paying attention.
Death Its Own Self
By now you’ve probably noticed that no one gets out of here alive.
Still, you could be forgiven for being unsettled by the thought of your own death,
because everything in our twelve mile wide; three centimeter deep culture leads
one to believe that every death is both “tragic” and unexpected. Someone dies
having sex at 105 years of age and is lamented as a tragic victim instead of a sort
of pinnacle of vitality that went out with all flags flying.
You want to have an exit worthy of the full performance – or so it seems to me.
The Coming (Slowly) of Wisdom
It seems to me that if you can manage to live for seven or eight decades, you ought
to get a little wiser. Not much, mind you. Humans, it seems to me, are much better
at improving technology than at improving themselves. Otherwise we’d all be
further along than we are in this new century (which begins to look suspiciously
like the last…)
Any way, one does get the sense that, if you take your time and keep your
emotions under control, you can get a bit better at thinking critically. And, since
you’ve seen this movie more than once, you can begin to recognize things before
they take full shape. That’ll do.