Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The older I get ...

Hard to avoid a cliche when you begin with The older I get ...  Of course, old age has become a cliche in our culture. In the movies there was a time when old age could be a sign of wisdom, of knowledge. (Think: The Karate Kid.) Lately, of course, old age is a source of humor. I talked about this in a recent speech, but if you think about older characters in popular movies (Wedding Crashers, The Proposal, Dirty Grandpa, etc.), you'll see that they (we!) are a source of foolish amusement: We're naughty, horny, etc. Kind of dumb, too. Clueless. We're the Dumb Guys with the Smart Phones.

Anyway, I've been thinking about that clause The older I get ... And here are some finishers for it:

  • ... the less I know. When I was younger, I thought I knew a lot. I didn't ... well, relative to my even-younger self I did. But now--every time I read a book, I realize I am woefully ignorant. There are worlds I know nothing about--solar systems, galaxies, universes .... And I realize I never will know so much about this earth and its inhabitants. This realization can be daunting, depressing.
    • And related ... I realize with sorrow that there are some awfully famous books I'm not ever going to read. Time, not desire, prevents it. Just this week I started reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray for the first time. I've known for a long time what it's about--but I've never read it. And there are so many others--innumerable others--whose pages I will never open.
  • ... the less energy I have. Duh. That's "normal," right? Well, sure, but normality doesn't make it any more tolerable. I sometimes look back on my early teaching career and wonder how on earth I ever managed it all--teaching, grading papers, preparing, meetings, play practices, being a husband, a father. I couldn't do a tithe of it now.
  • ... the more my memory fails me. Yes, I know: This is "normal," but it drives me crazy. I used to have the quickest damn recall. And now ... what was I going to say? Never mind ...
  • ... the more deeply I regret my failures. I cannot get them out of my mind, those times my Worse Self won out over my Better one. Memories arrive at night--and settle in for extended visits.
  • ... the more I realize how lucky I've been. I found a remarkable woman, who--why?--loved and loves me. Who's never made me feel bad. Never. Do you know how astonishing that is?
    • But I've been lucky in so many other ways, too ...
      • Wonderful parents and siblings.
      • Opportunities for excellent schooling.
      • Some life-changing teachers and professors.
      • Superb schools to teach in for my entire career.
      • Gifted mentors and colleagues, throughout my career.
      • A great son--and daughter-in-law.
      • Two remarkable grandsons.
      • Excellent health care, especially in my extended battle with metastatic prostate cancer.
  • ... the less I'm able to do so many things I used to do--and love. I can't run, play tennis, play baseball, play much of anything, really. My newest friend, vertigo, forces me to think about--and be careful with--every step I take. I, for exercise, have to be content to walk laps around an indoor track, to ride a stationary bike. (But I'm grateful for that--if a bit bored.) I still venture out on my bicycle; for some reason, vertigo doesn't bother me when I'm on it.
  • ... the more I resent the caricatures of the elderly that dominate our popular culture. The elderly are among the last few folks we can safely make fun of, apparently. It's Open Season on us, year-round, on TV and in the movies. Of course, I take a lot of it in the playful spirit it was intended, but a good percentage of it is just ignorant--and insensitive. Nobody wants to be a cliche, you know? Nobody wants to be defined by someone else.
  • ... the more grateful I am for Facebook. Yes, it annoys me at times (sometimes horribly so--to the extent that I avoid it for a while), but it's put me back in touch with so many people, from all parts of my life--from those who've known me for all of my 71 years to those whom I met just recently.
  • ... the more I regard Death not as something to fear but to hate. I do not want to leave this life. I love my family, my time to read and write and think and travel. So I will take Dylan Thomas' advice: I will rage, rage against the dying of the light. I will not go gentle into that not-so-good night. And we'll see what that gets me!

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