On aging

From the depths of Depression.

Photo by author

There’s nothing good about getting old except I’m a hell of a lot wiser, and maybe tougher than I was at 30 or 40. But that’s not enough. That doesn’t soften the realization one is old. And what the hell good is it to be wiser and tougher when you are old and the world has been given to those younger and it’s rolling along asking nothing of you but to stay out of its way.

I know much more — but it is past the time I most needed to know it. I’m able to shrug at that I do not know. By now I’ve figured out if I haven’t yet learned it, there’s no need now. Besides, it’s harder to learn and not worth the trouble.

Simple things make me happiest. That cliche is one that turns out to be true. A cup of excellent coffee. A new haircut. Fresh clothes after a long shower. A long talk with an old friend. Clean sheets.

Complicated matters such as romantic relationships, family unity and dysfunction, and who I should have or could have been just make me tired; the kind of tired that seeps into my bones and sets up its little haunted house of horrors featuring roads not taken. Yet.

Yes, there’s a “yet.” I’m yet to die, am I not? I’ve yet to kill anyone — although it’s a conundrum why not. There are those in my background who should have had their breath stolen long ago.

Maybe the desire to off somebody and not enough nerve to do so ushered in my dangerous old friend.

Depression is her name and she is a bitch and has robbed me of much. She and her cronies — disillusionment and codependency — come bouncing into the mix that is me. Damn them.

I expect to be around a bit longer. But one never knows. Many of my contemporaries exited long ago, or just the other day. I quit going to funerals of old friends I used to know. Just too many. That happens when we get old.

I’ll never understand the cruel autumn of man— why we learn, gain wisdom, and learn to live fully, just when we get old. Maybe it’s better to leave when one doesn’t feel the pain of abject loss or the absence of things unlearned. Before we forge all these regrets that, if we keep our minds, torment us to our graves.

We humans are born seeing almost like hawks, then barely well enough to putter over to the drugstore, or avoid the corner of a bedpost colliding with our pinky toe.

I could run like a deer on four-inch heels, then suddenly, it seems, I’m barely able to stay balanced and upright in sensible shoes.

We hear every luscious low whisper from the dining booth across the aisle, or a child getting out of bed from two rooms away. Then we wake up one day to learn we can hear only voices muttering half-heard words and not well enough to follow the conversation.

Perky breasts sag and fall. Strong, pretty, and well-muscled legs become marked by knotty purple veins and knees that fell. Eyelids once smooth begin to call curtains on our eyes. Eyes once sharp take on a filmy blurred habit. Supple skin becomes dry, wrinkled and thin.

Knees that bent with ease scream in pain. Once thick and lustrous heads of hair become stringy and sparse, while new coarse ugly hair grows seemingly everywhere — especially on our chins and in our noses and ears. Teeth become long, nails become brittle.

Words, damnit, come more slowly, if at all. They don’t seem to realize they belong to the writer. It’s like losing blood.

This is how it goes. The sight, the hearing, the melting of wrinkled lumpy flesh from face to neck, the saggy butt, and the day we look into the mirror and realize we are no longer young — and our time is shorter than we realized. Days grow short, then months, and then years, fly by. It hurts.

I can’t be 69 this month. But I will be. I became mostly invisible after 60. Even old men don’t flirt anymore.

Ah, but if only as much was written about coping with old age as with puberty. Aging is not easy and no task is easy once we’re old.

Fun times are fewer and completely usurped by times definitely not the joyous rambunctiousness of our youth. Fun and hearty good health is replaced by needles, definitely unfun tests, and dread. Stuff stops working. Stuff starts aching. Plumbing leaks.

I hate the thin skin most of all. It tears with the slightest scrape. Bruises with a tiny bump.

We go to more funerals than parties. Every year our contemporaries age, too, and an ever-increasing number pass from this life. Our hearts hurt. We miss them. We wonder how they just ceased to be. All that life was in them. Where did it go?

Youth was fun and full of promise, and we don’t remember when it crept away and left us old — maimed and broken, gray and slow. I hate to look at my arm. It can’t be mine. It’s my grandmother’s arm. Surely there’s been a mistake!

When, we wonder, did we become the oldest person in the room? How suddenly we notice that most of the people around us are younger.

Aging sucks. There’s no stinking benefit. It means we have spent most of our time. It means ready or not, here it comes, Death, I mean. She’s blowing her hot breath on my neck as she lurks at my shoulder, waiting.

She sucks, too.

Former print journalist, former mayor, retired law enforcement officer. Writing about politics and government along with random personal essays.

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