Aging, Aged or Ageless
I'm fifty-eight. I can't believe it! I don't feel fifty-eight. I don't feel fifty.
I think of myself as pretty much the same as when I was thirty, or twenty.
Have I really changed that much? When does one actually start "feeling old"?
Sure, there are changes, physical changes. People may say: "You're not
a young man anymore!" In terms of age, that is true. And there are signs--
I have less head hair than I used to, and some of what's left is silvery grey;
I 'm carrying around twenty pounds more than I did twenty years ago, but a pound
a year, is that so bad? I suppose it's not too good, since five pounds weight gain a
decade is some experts' allowable amount. I'll think about it.
I can't do the hundred-yard dash in ten seconds. Then, of course, I never
could. I think my best time in a high-school track meet was ten-six. But I might
be wrong. What's that bumper-sticker expression? "The older I get, the better I was."
For a long time now, there hasn't even been a "hundred-yard dash"; it's the
"hundred-metre dash" now. That's a sign of aging right there, when you can
remember something that people under thirty never even knew existed.
Or, how about the famous events test? I can remember when the Beatles
first arrived in North America. I can remember the deaths of Marilyn Monroe,
John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Elvis Presley, John Lennon.
There are so many landmarks in a person's lifetime. Not just celebrity and
worldwide events, but personal events too. My father dying at age fifty-two.
Being thirty-two myself at the time, I knew he died much younger than he
should have, yet, didn't I also think that over fifty was pretty old? For twenty
years, one of my main goals in life was to make it to age fifty-three.
For the last seven years, I've been telling my children and grandchildren
that I was born in the first half of the last century...sounds pretty old! I have
two sons and a daughter, who is the youngest at age twenty-nine. My oldest
son has two girls, my granddaughters who are four and seven. In chronological
order, my grown children are a very good artist, a very good musician and
a very good teacher. They're good people, nice people, and I'm proud
of them. I wish them long, happy and productive careers and
lives. I hope of course that I am a part of their lives for a long time yet.
My ex-wife (1971-1983), mother of my children, is fifty-seven. My wife
(1984-present) is fifty-six. Yeah, I went for a younger woman. She doesn't
feel her age either, and we do hope to spend a few more decades together,
figuring out this Life thing. What it is, what it can be. My Mother is
seventy-nine and shares a birthday with my daughter. Mom lives a
simple, healthy lifestyle on "the old homestead" in Central Ontario. Lately,
the doctors have been giving her a lot of tests. It's like they are trying to
find something wrong with her. So far, nothing serious.
I have a sister who is fifty-seven and a younger brother who just turned
forty-three. My sister is childless but my brother has two sons, eleven and
fourteen. I speak to my mother nearly every week. I've spoken to my brother
two or three times in the past year. I think I phoned my sister on her fifty-
fifth birthday. We love each other and we get along, but we're just not close.
Originally, I had two aunts and five uncles by blood and I acquired two
uncles and five aunts by marriage. Five of my uncles have died. My remaining
uncles and aunts are in their seventies and one in her eighties. I have thirty-
seven first cousins. They have nearly a hundred children, my third cousins,
some of whom are married with children, my fourth cousins.
I'm fifty-eight. I believe it! Numbers don't lie, right?
None of us know for sure how long we're going to live. None of us know
for sure if we just get the one shot. Most of us want to live as long as we can,
as well as we can. If I died tomorrow, or next week, and could comprehend
my dying, would I be satisfied with the life I've had? No. Perhaps with a
qualifier: "It was pretty good up to that point. But I wasn't finished!"
I don't know what the remainder of my life holds for me. I'm a bookseller,
a pretty good one, specializing in out-of-print and antiquarian children's books.
Will I ever be rich? Have you ever heard of a rich bookseller? Will I ever be
famous? Name your top three famous booksellers of all time. So, I can look
forward to more of a life without riches and fame. Give me relatively good
health and the chance to spend more time with family and friends. My two
best friends have been just that for forty-five years. During the last thirty-two
years, I've seen them intermittently, although they live close together and
interact a lot. The important thing is that we have an unbreakable bond. That
comes with time, with age, just like a good marriage.
I've also made some good friends in the last twenty-five years. I hold them
dear and I'd like to spend more time with them too. Lately, it seems like I have
other things to do that eat up my time. Some of these things are important,
some not so much. With age comes a pressing need for time management
and priorities. I hope I still have time to work on that.
I'm encouraged by today's longevity statistics and by a local weatherman's
announcements every week of the astounding number of people who are
celebrating their one-hundredth birthday, or one-hundred-and-one, one-hundred-
and-three perhaps. Do these people feel old? They must, right? I've never
talked with a hundred-year-old person, but I know a man who's ninety.
I asked him if he feels old and he said, "Some days I do. Other days, I feel
the same as I always did." He still plays golf, drives a car and lives by himself.
He has outlived his wife and many of his friends, but he's still finding enjoyment
in life. I hope to hear his name on the TV when he turns a hundred.
Historically speaking, there's also room for optimism. Even when the life
expectancy in Europe was thirty to thirty-five, people did live on into their seventies
and eighties. Eighteenth-century men Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson
lived to be eighty-four and eighty-three respectively. Sir Isaac Newton, born
in 1642, lived a productive life to the age of eighty-five. In the sixteenth century,
Galileo Galilei lived to be almost seventy-eight, and even as far back as the
fifteenth century, Nicolaus Copernicus, born in 1473 lived on into his
seventy-first year to die in 1543. Talk about losing a lot of friends along the way!
So, fifty-eight. Not so old. And when I turn sixty, I don't want to be called
a senior. I think perhaps eighty should be the new "senior". And when I reach
eighty, I may disagree with that. There are things I want to do, like write a book,
take wildlife photographs. There are places I want to go: walk the Riverwalk with
my wife in San Antonio, escort my wife to historic places in London that I've seen
once and would like to see again. I'd like to go to my son's one-man artshow,
listen to my other son's sold-out concert, and read my daughter's book about how
she enjoyed teaching in foreign countries. Get together with old friends and
talk about old times. Age, perhaps, but not get old.
My Mother says I'm fifty-eight, and I still don't believe it!
Terry A. Stillman