Someone I know very well, someone a few years older than I am, often tells young, vital humans “don’t get old.” Great advice if the alternative weren’t so dire. He also likes to warn those who have yet to experience the downside of advancing age about all those things that begin to go wrong — The end of endurance, the forgetfulness, the diminishing power of the senses, etc. “They need to know,” he says. He means well. He wants to warn them. It’s a slippery road ahead. So much of it surprised him and he’s pissed off no one told him what to expect, dangerous curves and soft shoulders being what they are.
If he wasn’t told, it was and is an observable phenomenon if only we would pay attention. If we want to pay attention, that is. I don’t think that at 25 we wanted to be warned. We simply refuse to register the signs of aging that are always around us and applying those observations to our own lives, especially when we are in our twenties going about our business, bouncing off our hormones and then trying to live up to the promises we made when we sought a mate and possibly mated and created a few future old people. And then…and then… after the career pressure lessens, we slow down and start noticing things. A little soreness in our knees, maybe. Some reading specs for the tiny print on prescription containers. If you are under forty and would prefer to keep your likely future a surprise, you may wish to Google Disneyland or rent Cocoon.
Things That Happen When You Get Old
You drop things. This leads to frustration and you do not pick up whatever you dropped until you drop something else in roughly the same place. Eventually it leads to piles of clutter that must be kicked off the main paths of your domicile. Clear passage to the bathroom is essential.
You realize that the greatest invention of all time isn’t the printing press. Forget what you learned on “Jeopardy.” The answer is “What are scissors, Alex?” Scissors are the greatest invention of mankind. Rubber bands come in second. Canes, though we try to avoid them for as long as we can, are third.
You watch “Jeopardy.”
Because you’re old, you sometimes get preferential treatment and that makes you angry. And sometimes you don’t get preferential treatment, and that makes you angry.
You are often invisible until your less than speedy pace slows down the more energetic of the species. Those who pass you give off an ephemerally hateful vibe you silently scream at them: “May you spend an eternity in Galapagos!”
You discover that all of nature’s creatures are more alike than we thought. Just like whales, you have all sorts of strange growths that appear on your body. Kind of like barnacles. Those that are visible fascinate and frighten children. Also, you lose a lot of hair, but the hair now grows in strange places and really fast.
You drift off just as that story you really wanted to see comes on the News Hour, and you wake up when it’s over. “Back to you, Gwen.”
You find out you have made it on every telemarketer’s favorite call list. And somehow they know all about you, especially how old you are. They call you by name. They seem genuinely interested in your life and happiness until you realize that you are engaged with a computer endowed with a low-level of artificial intelligence. They continue to talk despite that fact you yell at them with the worst words your faulty, little mind will come up with. You strangle the phone only to discover you have reset the date and time and you don’t know how to fix it. Poetic, isn’t it? Upset, you connect to the blood pressure machine and learn you should be dead. It doesn’t matter. It will all happen again tomorrow. The telemarketers call several times, usually when you are in the shower, have something in a frying pan or while you are dreaming of your, happier younger self during an unscheduled but always welcomed nap.
When you go to the store to buy one thing, you come home with three things, none of them the thing you went to the store to get.
You believe someone is sneaking in when you aren’t looking. They hide the remote, the telephone and the scissors.
You occasionally answer the remote.
You find the phone when the telemarketer calls. She asks for your social security number because she wants to make sure it’s secure and no one is taking advantage of you.
You look at other old people and ask yourself if you look that old!
On the other hand, there are many wonderful things that happen as you age. I wrote them down on a piece of paper. It’s here some place. It couldn’t have gone anywhere. Maybe the person who steals my scissors….