July 25, 2014

Growing Old

growing_old_inevitableFourteen years ago, when I was forty, I happened to glance into a mirror.  It was a winter evening, and the room was lit by only a bare bulb.  In the poor light my face for the first time looked old.  “I’m a severe old lady!” I thought, and thus began my mourning.

Mourning is definitely the right word for the denial, sadness, and endurance I experienced then and still do now.  I feel about my youth the same way I feel about someone who has died – the forgetfulness that buries the loss until something brings it to mind, the subsequent gut-wrenching sorrow, the resentment and desire to bargain . . .  Why do I feel this way?  I’ve thought of all the obvious reasons, but I’m not sure that they entirely explain my reaction to aging.

There’s some vanity behind my mourning, of course.  I was never beautiful, but I was nicer looking and in better shape thirty years ago than I am now.  There’s also the related loss of hope – thirty years ago, if I didn’t like how I looked, I could work out, get a different haircut, change my life, and somehow fix myself.  But now no matter how hard I swim upstream, the current is still taking me downward.  And each year I can’t swim quite as powerfully.

There’s the realization that all those things I planned to do one day are a lot less likely to get done.  I may still learn another foreign language, but I don’t think I’m going to climb Annapurna.  And I’ll ultimately be left behind by the young people who will – or at least might – do the things I no longer can.

Do I dread the kindly condescension that I’ll receive if I live long enough?  I already don’t like the check-out clerk calling me sweetie and asking me if I have a senior discount.  I may have some fear about my husband’s and my ability to take care of ourselves, especially as I watch the nightfall of my mother’s dementia.  Perhaps I also sense my children’s worry that we will grow old and leave them alone one day.

Yes, yes, I have answers – good, correct answers – for each of these.  Old age is not coming as a surprise, after all.  I’ve known since I was young that I would get old if I lived, and I’ve never tried to avoid or sugar-coat that fact.  But those answers don’t satisfy me, don’t soften the long goodbye that I can see ahead as, with a painful squeeze of the heart, I notice that my husband’s hair is thinning or that my hands are getting wrinkled.

Certainly my sense of mourning is a result of sin; but do I mourn because of my own vanity and pride?  That’s a large part of it.  But I also mourn because all people have mourned since sin and death entered the world.  It could be that my feeling of “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be!” is an accurate and healthy one.  Aging would be a different thing if it wasn’t for the Fall, I’m sure, and sometimes it intrigues me to speculate how glorious immortal life would have been – and then I mourn some more.

Well, I can’t do anything about all the “ifs” and “buts.”  My only recourse is to deal with the life I have.  I know that I’m healthy and capable, with a good family, a meaningful job that I can do for many more years, and surroundings of peace and plenty.  I can thank God for stripping aside the accidents of my life and soul and focusing on their substance.  I need to be grateful that he’s enabling me to develop true faith, hope, and love and not just rely on the exuberance of youth.  I should rejoice that he’s introducing me to that perseverance that is so highly praised in the Bible.  I can only lay down my life to God for loving me, a dying person.  After all, I’ve been dying since I was born.  God has not changed toward me since I’ve gotten older; I’ve changed toward myself.

These thoughts are all so true and wise and mature.  I could write pages of philosophy and poetry and mediation – but damn it, I hate the whole process of aging with all my heart, and no philosophy or understanding mitigates my hatred in the least.

Pray for me, brothers and sisters, to the Lord our God.

 

 

Comments

  1. Yep.

  2. Christiane says:

    Hi DAMARIS,

    I loved this line: ” I could write pages of philosophy and poetry and mediation – but damn it, I hate the whole process of aging with all my heart, and no philosophy or understanding mitigates my hatred in the least.”

    ( I think it was the ‘damn it’ that was the best part)

    I’ve got a few years on you, actually more than just a few, and some days I forget all about it . . . until I take a look at a reflection in a shop window, and wonder who that strange woman is that is looking back at me . . .

    I have stumbled over Dylan Thomas ‘do not go gentle into that good night’ . . .’ rage, rage, against the dying of the light . . . ‘ but rage makes me too tired these days, and ‘mellow in a minor tone’ is about all I’m geared for

    then there was my friend who wants me to join her club: the local Red Hat Society . . . you might know about these ladies, whose founder was inspired by THIS charming poem:
    “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
    With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
    And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
    And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
    I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
    And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
    And run my stick along the public railings
    And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
    And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
    And learn to spit. . . ”

    (from Jenny Joseph’s poem, ‘Warning’)

    so, okay, I didn’t join, but I too ventured into the spirit a bit, and after my third and VERY successful eye surgery (a partial corneal transplant) . . . I CELEBRATED . . . with the purchase of a red purse ordered all the way from London . . . a tomato-red Modalu ‘Pippa’ grab purse . . . yes, THAT Pippa . . . :)

    so if old age can get a woman who is all of beige and gray and cream and denim to carry a tomato-red purse around and feel ‘okay’ about it, then I say bring it on . . . I only wished I had discovered its perks about thirty years ago . . .

    now did I forget to give you that advice? . . . maybe that’s one of the perks :)

  3. We do forget the poets:

    Grow old along with me!
    The best is yet to be,
    The last of life, for which the first was made:
    Our times are in His hand
    Who saith “A whole I planned,
    Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

    Not that, amassing flowers,
    Youth sighed “Which rose make ours,
    Which lily leave and then as best recall?”
    Not that, admiring stars,
    It yearned “Nor Jove, nor Mars;
    Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!”

    Not for such hopes and fears
    Annulling youth’s brief years,
    Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark!
    Rather I prize the doubt
    Low kinds exist without,
    Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.

    Not once beat “Praise be Thine!
    I see the whole design,
    I, who saw power, see now love perfect too:
    Perfect I call Thy plan:
    Thanks that I was a man!
    Maker, remake, complete,—I trust what Thou shalt do!”

    Fool! All that is, at all,
    Lasts ever, past recall;
    Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
    What entered into thee,
    That was, is, and shall be:
    Time’s wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.

    He fixed thee mid this dance
    Of plastic circumstance,
    This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest:
    Machinery just meant
    To give thy soul its bent,
    Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.

    But I need, now as then,
    Thee, God, who mouldest men;
    And since, not even while the whirl was worst,
    Did I,—to the wheel of life
    With shapes and colours rife,
    Bound dizzily,—mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst:

    So, take and use Thy work:
    Amend what flaws may lurk,
    What strain o’ the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
    My times be in Thy hand!
    Perfect the cup as planned!
    Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!

    From Rabbi Ben Ezra by Robert Browning

    Man, how fast his firedint, ‘ his mark on mind, is gone!
    Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
    Drowned. O pity and indig ‘ nation! Manshape, that shone
    Sheer off, disseveral, a star, ‘ death blots black out; nor mark
    Is any of him at all so stark 15
    But vastness blurs and time ‘ beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
    A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, ‘ joyless days, dejection.
    Across my foundering deck shone
    A beacon, an eternal beam. ‘ Flesh fade, and mortal trash
    Fall to the residuary worm; ‘ world’s wildfire, leave but ash: 20
    In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
    I am all at once what Christ is, ‘ since he was what I am, and
    This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ‘ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
    Is immortal diamond.

    Gerard Manly Hopkins

    THAT is no country for old men. The young
    In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
    - Those dying generations – at their song,
    The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
    Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
    Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
    Caught in that sensual music all neglect
    Monuments of unageing intellect.

    An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
    Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
    For every tatter in its mortal dress,
    Nor is there singing school but studying
    Monuments of its own magnificence;
    And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
    To the holy city of Byzantium.

    O sages standing in God’s holy fire
    As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
    Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
    And be the singing-masters of my soul.
    Consume my heart away; sick with desire
    And fastened to a dying animal
    It knows not what it is; and gather me
    Into the artifice of eternity.

    Once out of nature I shall never take
    My bodily form from any natural thing,
    But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
    Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
    To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
    Or set upon a golden bough to sing
    To lords and ladies of Byzantium
    Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

    William Butler Yeats

    This is the time for growing out of this world. Although our Lord never knew old age, his mother did, and gained His sympathy thereby.

    • Damaris says:

      Wow! You and Christiane quoted all the poets that I thought of and decided not to use directly. I also like and am challenged by Yeats’ “The Coming of Wisdom with Time”:

      Though leaves are many, the root is one;
      Through all the lying days of my youth
      I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
      Now I may wither into the truth.

      And thanks for the thought in your last paragraph, Mule — I like it.

      • Damaris, you and Christiane should read Dylan Thomas’s “other” death poem: “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.”

        He must have been reading from 1Corinthians 15, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” And it fits in with the lines you quoted from Yeats.

        Best line in Thomas’s poem, though, is also the most macabre: “When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone…”

        • Damaris says:

          That is brilliant, Ted! I’ve never read that poem, although I love Thomas. You always recommend good things for me to read.

    • “This is the time for growing out of this world.” That hits the nail on the head, I think. I find a paradox as I age: I delight more in the beauty and pleasures of this world, yet, at the same time, I am less attached to them. Perhaps our Father, in His grace, is allowing me to see them more clearly than before as appetizers to a greater banquet to come.

  4. Adrienne says:

    Thank you Damaris for using the words grief and mourning in regard to growing older. I will be 65 this year and my health is not good, I fear my body’s decline. I can’t do gardening and yard work, actually my “can’t do” list gets longer each year I notice. I grieve as I watch the decline in older friends. One is so anxious about what she is experiencing and it is distressing to listen to her.

    I volunteer at a Senior Center. They are a great bunch of people there and they are very active. Yet I see the decline, hear the stories of distance from loved ones emotionally or geographically. We seem to “flock together” feeling threatened by young people, by technology, by the changing moral values all around us. “Our world” is disappearing. Our churches seem to almost resent us and just wish we would pass on so they can focus on the young. Reactions seems to fluctuate from fear to anger, to depression, to good humor. More medical appointments. New knees, hips, hearing aids, cataracts. It is quite a journey.

    Funny that you used the word Perseverance. I was just thinking about that last night. “You have need of endurance.” I pray for you and for me.

    • Michele says:

      “Our churches seem to almost resent us and just wish we would pass on so they can focus on the young.”

      Oh how I can relate to the pain of this. I am in my 40′s but in recent years my pastor who I had thought was a very dear friend once told me that Barna statistics show that if people are not converted before the age of 22 or something like that, then chances are exponentially against their favor every year after that of ever becoming a Christian, and this is why pastoral care must focus primarily on the young. I guess I had mixed feelings about what he said. In some regards maybe he’s technically right, and the church will flounder if the young are not won, but when pastors begin to think of people in terms of statistics and numbers, well they can’t help but become insensitive. I thought they were supposed to care for all of their flock. It was as if he told me directly that I don’t matter as much as the 18 year olds. I will never forget it, it cut me to the core, because my spiritual needs for discipleship and shepharding were also very great at the time, (and continue to be) and I didn’t appreciate being compared to someone else by my pastor. Each one of us is unique and irreplaceable. We get enough grief and pain from the world, and don’t need it from the church. People who are older have much to offer but they are being overlooked. Part of me suspects that the decline in the church may ironically be directly related to all of the focus of attention being on the young only. Once people get past the expiration date of age 22 – they figure church is no longer for them.

      • Yup. I’ve heard this much. It’s just how Jesus looks at it. You know, like in that story he told about the shepherd who let the one sheep go to save the 99? Wait. Or was it went after the one and left the 99 behind? Hmmmm…

        • I don’t remember anything about age of the sheep being mentioned in the story as Jesus told it………..

      • I would recommend this lecture by Frederica Mathewes-Green on older people in the Church and their special struggles.

    • > “Our world” is disappearing.

      Indeed. I already feel that at 40. Everything has changed, it is hard to even list what is different from when I was ‘young’. Things seem to get swept away so quickly now; be that due to media or technology, or just perception, it feels that way. It is hard to believe something [whatever it is] or someplace is beautiful or valuable, and to watch it discarded as trash or plowed under to make way for the new thing. I didn’t understand that at all when I was younger, but learning that has taught me much about sympathy [starting with what it is! :)]. I grieve some of the things I said when I was younger that seem so ‘reasonable’ that now to my own ears seem callous and harsh, and frequently to entirely miss the point.

      > Our churches seem to almost resent us and just wish we would pass on so they can focus on the young.

      One bug-a-boo with that: ‘the young’ are, inherently, a moving target. None of them remain. They’re just us, not yet.

      I confess to having had this exact sentiment to the grey-heads. It was both selfish and foolish.

      I can only hope, as I get older, I can perhaps meet the other side of this attitude with more wisdom then I encountered from the former side [it was often a bit of a snarling match on both sides]. We’ll see, if I’m fortunate.

      One upside of leaving Evangelicalism in my dust – the other camps, which may have their own issues, seem noticeably more at ease with all the phases of life [vs. being nearly obsessed with young singles and new parents; I stopped fitting those categories a decade-and-change ago, married-no-kids doesn't have a place in Evangelicalism].

  5. wow, what a great post. Thanks for sharing this.

    I am very post-evangelical, I’m baffled by the *obsession* with the whole grace-vs-law meme. Personally I think its wrong-headed-out-of-the-gate incoherent bilge [maybe there is a reason it is so terribly hard to explain?]. But I do appreciate all the writers on this site – you can count on them to be honest, humble, human, and engaging. Really like no other site I’ve run across. This post is a great example.

    I’m not “old” yest, just past 40. I do dread it, partly, but on the other hand being older has been so much better than being younger. My youth was miserable, at a miserable school, in a mean little place. Some of that was certainly self-inflicted (or certainly at least magnified by my own choices). But maybe that makes being and getting older easier??? I feel like I’m finally getting over being angry about so many things – just in time to get old! That is the hardest part about getting old at this point (for me). I finally feel like an adult, and I can already see the clock is starting to run out.

    • I had heard that emotional maturity arrives in the average American male at 39 years and 4 months, and lasts approximately an hour and 45 minutes, at which point seniity sets in.

      • Sounds about right. Wait, where am I ?

      • I had a tech-school instructor who used to say that the best years of a man’s life were between the ages of 30 and 40—because before he’s 30 he ain’t got no brains and after he’s 40 he ain’t got no guts. Now that I’m in my 50s I can see that he was right.

  6. Damaris,

    Thanks for the post. It captures one of those worries that linger in the back of my mind and grow over time. Women often mourn the loss of their beauty and men the loss of our strength. I have wondered how it will change me as my physical strength fails. There was a time when I was a good choice to have on your side if you were in a physical scrap. Even in middle age I pride myself on being in condition for most eventualities. But time and gravity always win in the end.

    My elderly parents live with my family and I have watched my father age. As a young man in the Forest Service he parachuted into forest fires to rout them before they spread and scaled mountains to rescue stranded climbers. At 93 he is still active and strong for his age but now he has trouble ascending the stairs. As a boy I remember being in awe of how strong his hands were (climbers have amazing hand strength) but the other day when I gave him the gift of a pocket knife I watched those hands embarrassedly struggle to get it open.

    I wonder about my own fading strength. My wife and daughters could always count on me to protect them, be it a midnight intruder or a boyfriend who was a “jerk.” But I am literally shrinking with age and all these young men grow taller and taller with each successive generation (has anyone else noticed that?).

    I developed my strength and fighting skills specifically because I was so often bullied as a youth. Somewhere in my mid-teens I vowed “never again” and I was able to make that a reality, at least for a time. But now, no matter what I do I get progressively weaker and slower. Along with the mourning you speak of, I guess it is also time for me to deal with some of the core issues I never dealt with as a boy. Cover them up, but God is always faithful to uncover them, even if it is 35-40 years later. “God has not changed toward me since I’ve gotten older; I’ve changed toward myself.” I’m going to spend some time unpacking that statement. Thanks again.

    • Don’t spend another minute wondering about your own fading strength. Instead, determine to discover what Second Corinthians 12:9 means:

      “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

      • Yes, that is the very thing I have been thinking about. How God’s strength can me manifested in human weakness.

        Still, I think that there is something of a false worship of weakness in Christian circles. There are certain lessons that can only be learned from a position of strength. When I was a weak boy everyone thought I was sweet and kind. I was not, I was just afraid. I was nice, turned the other cheek, was polite, always did the right thing, all because I was afraid of people. Only when I became strong could I CHOOSE to be merciful, kind, etc. Only when I did not have to, could I truly choose the Right because of virtue instead of fear. Looking at Jesus example, His meekness and gentleness on earth was so impressive because He was Almighty God. “Being in very nature God, he humbled himself and became obedient…” Too often we skip over the first part of that and encourage Christians to be weak and humble.

        Still, you are right. There are lessons to be learned in weakness. The opportunity of seeing God’s strength accomplish great things when we come to the end of our own. This is an opportunity that none of us gets to avoid.

  7. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    Posting about getting old the day before my 39th is just not on…..

  8. That Other Jean says:

    Thank you, Damaris, for this post. I acknowledge that, at 65, I can do less than I used to, in more pain than I used to be. I know more dead people than live ones, yet I cherish the friends who remain, and make new ones as often as I can. My only advice for aging would be to stay engaged: do something for somebody else, no matter how old you are, but remember to do things for yourself as well. Care about what happens in the world as you get older, and do what you can to influence it. And remember that the challenges of aging have been with us a long, long time. Be not afraid:

    The Women Tell Me Every Day by: Anacreon (570-488 B.C.) translated by Thomas Moore

    The women tell me every day
    That all my bloom has past away.
    “Behold,” the pretty wantons cry,
    “Behold this mirror with a sigh;
    The locks upon thy brow are few,
    And, like the rest, they’re withering too!”
    Whether decline has thinn’d my hair,
    I’m sure I neither know nor care;
    But this I know, and this I feel,
    As onward to the tomb I steal,
    That still as death approaches nearer,
    The joys of life are sweeter, dearer;
    And had I but an hour to live,
    That little hour to bliss I’d give.

  9. I have a brother in law and two friends going through life threatening cancer. Love every word you typed, and as a 57yr old, I’m looking at the same realities/fears in myself. Thanks, Damaris. I think the “damn you, death” thing is right on target. Not that it has to lead to plastic surgery, or an 80K sports car (hard to hide both from the wife…. :)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’m also 57 and looking at a prostate biopsy two weeks from this coming Tuesday. I’m not looking forward to it. My PSA levels started shooting up between one to two years ago, and currently give me a 40-50% chance of prostate cancer. No Christianese glib platitudes or Jesus Jukes welcome.

      • 57 here too and PSA levels still OK, but they got my dad.

        We should have a class of ’74 reunion when we get to heaven. I’ll bring the lobsters.

  10. David Cornwell says:

    Wow, Damaris, you woke me up this morning– from my sleepy eyed slumber in the recliner.

    This year I’ve reached the three-quarter of a century mark. I have many of the same regrets you have expressed here. Yet over time they have somewhat dissipated. I know my time is very limited compared to what I’ve already lived.

    I remember when I was in my mid-fifties and walking in this little town where I served as UMC pastor. Some rowdy boys driving down the street, yelled out “watch out old man.” The odd thing was, I really didn’t feel old yet. But slowly, as the years passed, my body started to develop the symptoms of old age. At sixty-two I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I had radiation, surgery, and chemo, but recovered. But the radiation and chemo did some lasting damage to my body, and I’ve had a continuing bout with spinal stenosis and it’s pain. I say all this not to dwell on my physical symptoms, but simply to acknowledge that life changes in drastic ways the older one gets.

    Yet it can, if one permits, concentrate the mind and spirit on some of the important things. I think a lot about the New Heaven and New Earth promised to us in God’s word. And the Kingship of Christ and the coming resurrection of the dead. I understand none of this to any degree beyond what I read, and contemplation in moments of prayer. However sometimes for a fleeting moment I comprehend just a bit more, and have the assurance that old age isn’t the end.

    In his Easter sermon ths year, the pastor talked about the body of Christ, the open tomb, His appearance to those who saw Him, what the Body of Christ means to us now, and the mystery of it all. For some reason this sermon struck home with me, and it gave me, and old man, renewed hope.

    I go to a church that has both the young and the old. With us are beautiful children, parents so very young, excited youth, and plenty of us old folks. We try our best to give each other love and support.

    What I do dispise however is this: time speeds up the older one gets. Weeks fly by, months gather their dust and are gone forever, and the years zoom by as if I were standing still. Ths is what makes me weep.

  11. Preach it, Sister! I just turned 70. You are so right — getting old stinks. I suppose I’ve got all this wonderful wisdom, but somehow that just don’t cut it.

    And churches *may* have improved a bit in the last 10 or 20 years, but I recall reading laments in newsletters of the church I then attended, about “all the grey heads in the pews.” I was too discouraged to be mad.

    On a brighter note, I recall the story of the 94-year-old orchestra conductor, at a party in his honor, who looked at the young girls attending and sighed, “Oh, to be 80 again.”

  12. With apologies to Hemingway and his classic line about bankruptcy, I feel like I grew old two ways: gradually, and then suddenly. I still feel physically capable but when I see pictures of myself now I have to look twice to be sure it’s not my dad.

    Thanks, Damaris, for your reflections on aging. We live in such a youth-obsessed culture and so much of that attitude has infiltrated the church.

  13. Damaris, would you please explain to me exactly when you climbed into my head and found my thoughts?? It is a bit disconcerting to hear one’s own thoughts echoed, although your writing is far more touching and clear than my ramblings on this might have been. (Especially since, I am also 54, at least for another few weeks….and my YOUNGEST child turned thirty last week. This is clearly impossible, as I just brought him howling home from the hospital a few months ago……in addition, the new royal prince’s Daddy is a few months younger than my eldest, and I remember holding THAT baby of my own when Diana first appeared with newborn William. It is ALL hitting me at once.)

    Thanks to all who also chimed in, reminding me that this is not our Home, and our failing and fading forms and faculties will appear again to us, in an ever purer form, after the final days. It is just tough to keep that focus when the young and beautiful bodies in the media are younger than many of my sweaters and coats!

  14. Here’s MY raging, at 62:
    1) I still take 2 stairs at a time, while my wife, 5 years junior huffs and puffs taking one.
    2) I shun the elevators and take the stairs
    3) I walk faster and farther than those 20 years my junior
    4) I can still play softball with the younger crowd
    5) I can still pull on my socks without sitting, while standing on one foot at a time
    6) I regularly peruse the latest music on Spotify (I shun Hip Hop as pseudo music)
    7) I work longer hours than my coworkers who start to pack it in around 4PM

    But in private:
    1) I too mourn the passing of youth,
    2) the sagging pectorals that I thought only women suffered
    3) the advancing aches in my knee, the result of youthful injuries
    4) the face I see in the mirror
    5) the vacant stares I see as young women look right through me as if I were invisible
    6) the concern for my mothers health, knowing that her longevity is the standard for my own demise
    And finally, 7) the certain knowledge that I will live no more than 20-25 more years and that those years fly by more swiftly the older I get.

    • I’m with you Oscar, at least on the first half! Even my 96 yr old father takes the stairs rather than the elevator. As for not getting second glances from the young (in my case males) I find that a good thing, in that I don’t have to feel self-conscious around them and can act & say what I want. I can compliment my sons’ friends without giving the impression that I’m coming on to them! Age does have its advantages.

  15. Rick Ro. says:

    Thanks for sharing your struggles with aging. And since some folks are sharing “aging” poems, I’ll throw down my favorite poem on the subject, by Billy Collins:

    Forgetfulness – Billy Collins

    The name of the author is the first to go
    followed obediently by the title, the plot,
    the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
    which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
    never even heard of,

    as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
    decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
    to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

    Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
    and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
    and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

    something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
    the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

    Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
    it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
    not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

    It has floated away down a dark mythological river
    whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
    well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
    who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

    No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
    to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
    No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
    out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

    • Kerri in AK says:

      Rick Ro. – Thank you for this poem. It pretty much sums up how I look at growing old – ruefully but with great humor. I’ve been saying for years that my brain is a sieve – with name sized holes in it – but now I think that specific part of my brain has gone south to the fishing village with no phones. At least it can stretch out and relax in the sun!

      Will be sharing this with my contemporaries and elders.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “I’m used to my bifocals,
      My dentures work just fine;
      I can live with my lumbago
      But I sure do miss my mind!”
      – Rhyme from some radio preacher in the Seventies

  16. Let me give another side. I am 61 and do not in any way feel physically old. I still weight-train (female version ie. light weights) 5 days a week and also run, currently planning for a 10K in November. My family genetics indicate I could very well live into my 90′s. Of course I could also die tomorrow. But what does scare me are those introspective moments when I think about how fast time has gone and how little I may have left. There is still so much I want to do.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My family genetics mean I could live into my 90s (father’s side) or kick off in my 60s (mother’s side). I’m 57 and in the middle of the testing phase of a prostate cancer scare. Mother’s or Father’s side? Flip the coin…

  17. Robert F says:

    My life is like the crane who cries a few times
    under the pine tree
    And like the silent light from the lamp
    in the bamboo grove.

    Bo Juyi

  18. Robert F says:

    One of the best short stories ever written about getting old: Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.”

  19. Damaris says:

    Great poetic contributions, everyone. Thank you. This is a topic that has universal application, obviously, least to those of us who have lived long enough to think about it. And I’m pleased with how many people always take the stairs! I do, too, and am amazed and saddened by all the people at my two-storey workplace who take the elevator. And happy birthday, Klasie!

  20. For me, it’s the things that i realize now that I am never going to do, the career I am never going to have, the children that aren’t going to be a super successful as I assumed they’d be, the interesting things I thought I’d be doing now rather than wondering how in the world we will ever be able to afford to retire.. And the regrets about things, so many things, that I would have done differently. The road not travelled seems to be the one that would have made all the difference…

  21. David L says:

    Hmmm.

    I’m less than a year away from 60. And I can’t wrap my head around that. Mentally I think of myself as in my 40s. Or so it seems.

    Physically I’m slower and not as strong as I remember myself. My digestive system is something I notice a whole lot more in the last 5 years than I ever used to. And yes as others have mentioned, parts do seem to sag that I never thought about before.

    My father died at 76 due to lung cancer from smoking 2 to 3 packs a day. It may sound strange but he was in excellent health aside from that. His father died at 97, but likely would have lived longer if he had done the rehab from his broken hip from working on the farm at 92 instead of getting into a funk because he had to do rehab. He was born in 1885. His grandfather was born around 1800. So long life genes on that side. My mother’s side seems to be long lived but records are murky.

    Anyway it’s hard for me to think (realize?) I’m getting near the end. I just don’t feel like I’m almost 60. But then again check back in 10 years. I may have changed my mind.

    Now a part of this “I don’t feel old” may come from my children being born when I was in my 30s. Which, if you’ve been a parent, puts you in a social circle where most people are 10 years younger than you are. My kids are half way through college. While some people from my high school class have grand kids entering college.

  22. Radagast says:

    I just got back from cub scout summer camp with my youngest son. My first time around at summer camp was with my two oldest boys and at the time I was in my 30′s -full of energy. Having just turned 50 I fully admit now… I am not the man I used to be (I am whooped). My thoughts are more and more away from ‘I can do anything’ to ‘I’m getting too old for that’. My running routine has come to a grinding halt because of planter faciatus.

    I like what someone said above – years of working out now does not provide the same results – and maybe its time to turn again and look inward and come to peace with some issues. That guy in the mirror certainly isn’t me….

    Thank you for this.

    • David L says:

      Yep. One thing younger folks don’t get is waiting till your 30s to have kids means it will be very likely you will not be able to play with them in the more active areas. Baseball, flag football, rock climbing, etc… Now there are folks who do that into their 50s but they are a minority. For most of us things just don’t work as well.

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    My father used to say “You’re Only As Young As You Feel!”

    Didn’t help much when his health started failing after retirement.

  24. A formidable share, I simply given this onto a colleague who was doing a little bit evaluation on this. And he in truth purchased me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! However yeah Thnkx for spending the time to debate this, I really feel strongly about it and love studying extra on this topic. If doable, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your weblog with extra particulars? It is highly useful for me. Big thumb up for this blog publish!