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By Jim Byous
It’s interesting. You learn more about yourself when you grow older… if you’re lucky. When I feel the way I did when I was in my thirties I wear my cowboy hat. That the way I dressed back then. When I feel the way I did in my forties I wear a baseball cap because that’s what I wore in those times. In my fifties I wore tams and caubeens while I was learning about my heritage.
Now, in my sixties, I wear whatever the hell I want. At this age eccentricity is the norm, that and the fact that after reaching this age we tend to not give a wad about what others think. “What’ll it be today? White undershirt, pink Bermuda’s, Argyle socks and black Florshiems? Nah, I don’t feel like looking like everyone else at the pool.”
I do have to admit another side of the above observation. If I really feel my age… I sometimes go back to bed. Geezers can do that. But many of us battle that feeling with resolve and disdain. Never give up, never give in even when places that shouldn’t ache and click and leak and strain do.
Everyone gets older. Getting older is a measurement in time – for you and for those who observe you. Sometimes it’s expressed to you… as in, “Holy crap. You’re lookin’ old.” “Oh yeah, so what? Everyone gets old,” that’s what I shoulda said. Or maybe, “Your mama!” Maybe that.
Aging to seniorhood can be the pits. In her later years my mother always instructed me, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” I whole heartedly agree. It gets more and more difficult for the thirty-something on the inside to adapt to the sixty-something senior exterior. It’s like an old farm truck with a new radio… what you’re hearing inside is boppin’ and hoppin’. But the chassis and fenders are creaking with every bump and turn and the paint on the roof is windblown and thin. That’s gettin’ old. If you’re lucky you’ll do it too. Singer Chris LeDoux has a song that sums it up, “It ain’t the age, it’s the miles.” Age can be inside. Mileage is what you see on the outside.
It’s a paradox – a dichotomy. The fact that you remain the same but can also be different when you “grow” older. It can be a measurement in experience and wisdom. Age is a perception in one’s mind. It’s unusual to find anyone with higher mileage who hasn’t walked past a store window and viewed their parent in the reflection. “What the… Why is my father in Victoria’s Secret… Oh, wait. That’s me! But that is a nice teddy that he’s standing next to… not that it means anything to me.”
Most folks feel younger in their minds. For those of you who are in your thirties this is probably how you will feel throughout your aging. The change is outside. Some desiccate and wrinkle, others inflate and wrinkle but we’re still the same person, just wrinkled. And, age can mellow a person. Things that used to bother you don’t. “Hey, let that grandchild ride her tricycle on the newly finished hardwood floor. It’s okay.” Children no. Grandkids yes. You’ll enjoy the contorted look on your grown child’s face as they stare into your eyes and say, “Dad, are you in there?” Mellow. That’s the right word. Things tend to not matter the way they used to. Life is short. What the hell?
The other misunderstood parental trick is to fill the grandkids up with sugar, kiss them on their heads and send them home with their moms and dads. You’re old enough to know that oak flooring isn’t all that important and that sugar gets you kisses and hugs and that mom will force-feed and purge it out of them until the next trip to Papa’s house. They’ll be just fine.
New floors really aren’t that important. Grandchildren are. Changing the rules is a parent’s twisted-but-humorous way of getting even. It’s universal. It’s getting even in a semi-perverted way. We’ve all heard and received the mother’s curse: “I hope you grow up and have one just like you.” It’s a guiltless phrase that has been uttered and cast and passed from generation to generation since the dawn of time. It’s your birthright. Use it or lose it… it’s up to you.
However, that mellowing thing is not universal. It’s different in some. Sometimes the young person just becomes old. They see life in the same dark, cloud-covered and dreary way. The same person inside then is the same person inside now. If a woman is the “sweet old lady” type she was most likely the sweet young lady type. Likewise, if a man is crotchety or grumpy or just down right mean in his later years, he was probably a jerk when he was young.
It’s all in the mind. That young, eager, happy person gets the gist of life even if that young person is old. Life is boot camp for the next level. Take the years and enjoy them. It’s better than the alternative. It’s a fact that death never hurt anyone. It’s the period just before that can hurt like hell and be a bummer just before checking out. Enjoy life until that happens. Enjoy boot camp. Enjoy the zigging and the zagging and the climbing and the crawling through the mud. Enjoy the obstacle course. It’s the only one that you get to run in this duty station.
I’m turning 65 this month. I think it’s time for a road trip.
Stick around, I’ll tell you about it.