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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Aging

Let me begin by saying this is not a litany of complaints or a rant about how getting old sucks. I may do that another time. But: I've been thinking about aging lately. When you get to your 60s it's pretty inevitable. For me turning 50 was about the time it occurred to me I might not live forever. I'm still hoping an exception will be made in my case.

The first indication something was happening along those lines was in the 1994 Boston Marathon. A race I had reliably run for over ten years in the two hour, forty-five minute range (2:41-2:48 between 1981 and 1993) suddenly and without warning became impossible to complete within three hours. To most people that seems like a minor thing. After all it's not arthritis or senility (I already had that) striking you down. But to me it was a big deal. I anticipated in the coming years I would gradually slow down. But this, this was a veritable wall. The first shot across the bow of my mortality.

The ensuing twenty years and events have given me plenty of time to contemplate the thing. The physical as well as the mental aspects. In some ways it's interesting to observe from a dispassionate viewpoint, which I will try to do here.

Some things are subtle. For example I can't snap off the answers to Jeopardy questions as quickly as I once could. I know I can eventually retrieve many of the answers, but just can't quite find the trigger. Not that I'm a potential Ken Jennings, but I like to think I'd be a passable contestant. I could only compete now if I were up against people fifty and older.

Things like this lead me to anticipate future developments. I suppose at some point the process of things slowing down speeds up. Eventually the whole thing catches up with you and it's off to the big dirt nap.

Actually, we humans have only begun living this long within the past century. As it is its relatively uncharted territory. There's much I like about it and much I don't.  I'm quickly realizing this post could become unwieldy if I delve into everything I think about with regards to gettin' old. So I'll make a few observations and leave the rest for another day.

One thing I DON'T like is how things are skewed in favor of us geezers over young people in this country. Why should I get a movie discount just because I'm old? I understand the benefits of Social Security, but our young people are being buried in educational debt while I collect a paycheck each month. They are our most valuable resource and as a society we are creating wage slaves at a high long term cost. Don't get me wrong, I still accept the discounts and the money. I'm not an idiot.

Speaking of young people, the one thing I dislike intensely is the loss of relevancy. My cultural frame of reference is a product of the 60s and 70s. When my son and I talk sometimes I realize we are almost speaking different languages, our experiences are so different. Same as with my father and me. He is a product of the Great Depression. I more or less understand what makes him tick. (I'm thinking the Great Recession has pulled most of our generations closer in line) But the gap in useful knowledge is enormous.

Physically everything slows down. I work out hard and it pays tremendous dividends. I can do things people half my age are physically unable to do. But I can't do what I used to do. I don't like that.

Still I'm fortunate. I long ago established a habit of relatively intense chronic exercise. The benefits I'm receiving now give me far more return on investment than anything else I've ever done, mentally as well as physically. And I intend to wring every drop possible out of this body.

But let's face it, the purpose of any living organism is to pass on its genes. The more you study biology the more you see the ultimate truth in that. I did that and I don't intend to do it again, although for some odd reason evolution gives the male of our species the ability to fertilize far longer than it gives the female to be fertilized. Not sure why that is.

People say "You are only as old as you feel." I sort of understand that sentiment, but I'm still calling bullshit on it. I AM as old as I feel, but that age is 64. Numbers don't lie. My 64 may be different than your 64, but it's still there. 

All in all I'm not unhappy about it. At least I get an old age, or have so far. And it's a good one. My late wife, Jan, didn't get one. A lot of good and true men and women sacrificed theirs much too early on behalf of you and me. I like to think I'm living the life they didn't get.

I've rambled on enough about this. Call it a privilege of the age. Meanwhile keep your kids out of my yard.


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