I promised myself, a long time ago, that if I should become an old person, I would not ruminate about being old. The reason I made this promise was that all the old people I knew were always talking about being old and it was depressing and boring. Well, now that I am actually old, I find that the thing I know most about (and about which I have ample documentation) is the business of being old. Of course, I could just keep my mouth shut. Alas, though I have lived a long time, and though I have always dreamed of being one of those silent mysterious types, I have not learned the lesson of reticence, much to the regret of the few close friends I have left.

Hardly a birthday goes by that I do not mark the passing of another old friend. This is the hardest part. I have said before, that a high school buddy of mine puts u a web site and lists the passing of class members as that happens. I moved away from the old home town soon after high school and therefore do not have an on-going experience with these people who are hardly more than yearbook memories, but who were then friends and acquaintances – school mates. He posts pictures of their gatherings, which are more instructive than looking into a mirror. I want to say, “My god those people look old”!

The body is the world’s most eloquent professor of gerontology. You don’t even have to take notes: it’s a continually updating notepad. You just have to “read” it. I sometimes think I am being singled out as a kind of test bed for ailments. Then I walk through a modern drug store and see evidence that I am only one of millions who are falling apart. You can tell how things are going with your neighbors by looking at the size of the different displays. Pain relief is perhaps one of the biggest sections. Then comes the 3 C’s, coughs, colds and congestion. Close behind is irregularity. Although this doesn’t cover the entire spectrum of aging complaints, it’s instructive.

I’ve noticed that mature people don’t give a damn who sees them “shopping” for pain medicine, or a more effective laxative, or a cold medicine. It’s part of the life. By the way I never see mature people shopping the condom section. I’ve never seen anyone shopping the condom section. Remember when you could only get them by asking for them?

I met an old friend in the grocery store yesterday. As we talked, it became apparent that we both suffered from hearing loss. We compared hearing aids. I had just purchased a packet of batteries. Later in the evening one of my batteries died and I replaced it with a new battery and discovered that it was the wrong size. This morning the other one died. As I sit here I am stone deaf. I remember having hearing so acute that it kept me awake at night. I think that’s all I’m going to say about what I can remember doing, There’s no space for that.

I am a lucky men. I can walk without assistance, and eat most anything, still handle good liquor and, after several medical interventions, see quite well. I’ll get up in a moment and go downtown to exchange these batteries, and check, hopefully, for a possible breakthrough in the irregularity section.

Same time next year?

First of all, when I was younger, say, around 40, I couldn’t even imagine the 70’s. Guess what? Here I am within a year of being done with the 70’s!

When I was a kid, people I knew who were in the 70’s were old. Some women and fewer men even reached the 70’s. To tell the truth, not much has changed. Except, that is, now it’s me who is the old person of record. And quite happy to be so, I might say.

It happens while you sleep. It’s subtle. You’re not thinking of it and one day you realize your next birthday is a very large number. People say stuff like, you’re not old, you’re just seasoned. I want to tell that person to perform an unseemly, if not appropriate, but arguably impossible sexual act upon his or her self. I do try to be kind. I really like the one where someone tells me that I am so many years young. Who’s hiding from reality here? Oh, and the all time favorite: age is a state of mind. No Honey, age is a number. It has always been a number and it will always be a number, no matter what state your mind is in.

I never thought I’d be here now, so every day is an adventure. It’s actually the best time of my life. I must confess that so far, knock on wood, I have reasonably good health and can do most of what I want to do. I love that line in CS Lewis’ delightful little book “Letters to an American Lady” where he talks about not being able to take his beloved hikes in the countryside anymore, and how, strangely, his desire to do so has diminished. It happens: where ability diminishes, desire seems to wane as well.

It is true that my range of movement is significantly reduced. My endurance is catastrophically reduced. I seldom have a day without some pain and stiffness where once I was as lithe and limber as a green twig. Many things I once did without even thinking now require extensive planning or complicated detours. However, the things I am able to do bring me great satisfaction. By any calculation, my life is good. I am, indeed, a lucky man.

What really gets me is the knowledge that I really am playing in the fourth quarter and soon the two minute warning will sound. I think of things like final arrangements, do not resuscitate documents, updated wills, and taking care of the disposition of all my old porn movies. Wouldn’t want them to show up and tarnish the shine on my spotless character, now would I? Any takers?

I really don’t think about this as much as it sounds. It just comes up late in the evening when the shades of melancholia hover over my shoulder. I guess what I am saying is that once I never thought of the end of things, and now – guess what? Oh, I know, I could live a long time. If I do, I’ll welcome each morning with a smile and a groan as I try to get out of bed. I’m just acknowledging a little reality here folks. It’s the kind of stuff they say healthy people should do.

The substance of life, as I think of it, is not how long I’ve lived, or what I believe about God or politics, or where I’ve been and what I’ve seen, or the short list of my accomplishments. It is, rather, the faces and embraces, the warm humanity, that have become the real substance of my life. And I have you to thank for that. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.