OK, here it is. My full disclosure. My big admission. And naturally, it’s all about age. In the past I’ve been a bit reticent to reveal the actual number of years I’ve accumulated on this planet thus far. It’s not because I’m ashamed of that total, but rather because I sometimes feel like people might look at me differently. We all know the consequences of ageism — people think you’re fragile, or need to be cared for, looked after and eased along, both physically and mentally. They think seniors are slow, both literally and figuratively. In other words, they reckon we’re not at the top of our game or even capable of catching up.
So having just entered my eight decade on Earth this past May 30, I figure now is as good a time as any for my big reveal — not just because the big SEVEN-OH is definitely a milestone by any measure, but also because it marks a change in my psyche. Suddenly I’m considering my own mortality and the limited number of days that I have left.
Of course, it’s been a long time since I’ve reconciled myself with the fact that I have more years that I can count in my virtual rearview mirror than those that I can look forward to. It’s a sobering thought to be sure. Suddenly I feel an urgency to try and accomplish all my remaining goals in the quickest time possible. There’s a decided deadline, although naturally, the actual time isn’t set in stone. Of course, I can only hope it doesn’t fall short within the foreseeable future. Then again, it’s not knowing when that day of final reckoning will befall me that makes me all the more impatient to get things done now.
I have to admit that I never really thought about my mortality before. Yeah, I was aware that I wasn’t going to live forever — at least a little bit. My goal is to live until age 130 and then worry about whatever time that remains at that point. And while you might think that I’m joking, that optimism and ambition was my way of refusing to concede to any countdown.
Many of us are surprised when we look in the mirror. We see a person who we scarcely recognize, an aged and ancient vision of our former selves. We don’t identify with the senior citizen we see. Instead, we retain the imagery, values, beliefs and ideals that we accumulated early on.
In my case, it may be a mark of my admitted immaturity, as well a refusal to give in to the expectations society still clings to as far as its elderly are concerned. I never found a fit with being in my 50s. I ignored the fact that I was in my 60s.
Happily, I had several friends of a similar age and there was a zest and enthusiasm we could readily share between us.
However, now that I’m 70, I find myself in a rarified segment of the population. Most people are younger than I am, which bestows a certain sense of seniority. I’m a bit envious of those who haven’t reached this milestone yet. “What, you’re only 60?! You’ve got your whole life left to go.”
Not only am I the oldest one in the room, but I’m likely the oldest one in the entire building!
I know what you’re thinking. I should practice the lessons I often impart through this column. Value experience and expertise. Equate strength with survival. Don’t stand for disrespect. Wear age as a badge of honor.
Be assured that I will do all of those things. However, I also feel that it’s OK to remind myself that I have reached a milestone, and it’s an auspicious one at that. At this
age, youth, promise and possibility often can give way
to reconciliation, compromise, limitations and acceptance.
It’s for that reason that I long ago decided that I won’t let age impede me. If I want to hike, I’ll hike. If I want to express my silly sense of humor, I’ll be content to simply amuse myself. Irreverence is in my DNA, and I’m not going to excise that particular additive any time soon.
I still cherish my music, all the more so because many of my heroes have shown that it’s perfectly possible to rock well into their 80s. In other words, that 35-year-old me is still safely ensconced within this aging shell. Just because he’s peering out and seeing his grandfather doesn’t mean he has to feel less secure.
Besides, there’s something to be said for that axiom, “birthdays sure beat the alternative.”
So all I ask is that you give me time to adjust and alter my mindset.
Oh, an occasional compliment inferring that I don’t look my age would be appreciated as well. Even if you say, “Gee Lee, you don’t look a day over 69!”