February 17, 2006

First Person

Feeling My Age

By Ernie McCray

It seems like just about everytime I mention to somebody that I’m growing old and coming apart at the seams they say to me: “Oh, you’re not old. You’re only as old as you feel.”

And when I hear such sentiments I can’t help but wonder what it means. First of all I’m usually joking when I complain about growing old. I mean I walk many miles a week, at a smooth and easy fast pace, and sometimes I’ll put a little Prince or Santana on and dance the whole CD. Hey, other than a creak or two and muscles that will never be able to do some things they once could do I feel good. Real good.

But I feel 67. Cuz that’s the age I happen to be.

And the few dinks in my body that I like to joke about all began at earlier stages of “feeling my age,” back to when I would dive for loose balls on the floor not having a clue that those days would come back to haunt me via my bones many decades later. And it’s a wonder I have a spine today when I think back on my making out days in the back of my mother’s car twisted into positions that would qualify me for Cirque du Soliel. Oh, I remember a moment back in time when I jumped off the roof of my house on a double dare and lived in fear the rest of the day that I would look like an accordian for the rest of my life. Boy, I don’t want to feel any of those ages again.

I cherish those times but 67 suits me fine. I’m old and proud of it. I have earned every strand of the mass of gray hair on my head and on my face. I ride the bus for a dollar and I go to national parks for free. My admission at the movie house beats the matinee rate. I absolutely dig senior citizenry.

I think it’s absolutely wonderful that human beings more and more are living longer and healthier lives but I’ve never understood why some people feel a need to try to feel young by deluding themselves into thinking that they’re looking young. To each his own, though, but nothing seems more unnatural to me than folks with hair as black as clear midnight skies or a face rhytidectomized back to how it once looked earlier in their lives as though such things don’t belie that they’re now 85.

Oh, well, I don’t know, I guess I’m okay with the idea of old age because I don’t like the thought of being young, by any definition or stretch of imagination, when I die. I’ve always dreamed of living to a ripe old age, with this popular obligatory stipulation: “As long as I’m in good health.” 

I’m the generation before the baby boomers and I’m often fascinated by their accomplishments and forward thinking attitudes but I’m not comfortable with a growing trend among them of looking at old age as something passe. Why eliminate a life stage?

In a world where wisdom seems to be tossed aside like dirty water in a mop bucket, someone needs to step forward and make a plea for sanity. And who should be better for the job than the elderly?

We reside in a category that is most honored in some societies: the old and the wise. With that comes a responsibility to act as sages. But we cannot do that if we try to hide or disguise our ages.

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