Tom Martin on getting "old."
Originally published May 6, 2007.
Next week I will turn 47, and my wife informs me I'll soon miss the "Deep Impact" cut. I've not seen the 1998 movie, but I understand that in it a comet is bearing down on planet Earth, and only those who are allowed in shelters will survive. To preserve the human race, they make an age cut-off, allowing only those younger than 50 in the shelters.
So there you have it. If a comet hits mother Earth three years from now, I'll be left twisting in the wind because, by "Deep Impact" standards, I'll be a geezer.
Well, the "Deep Impact" folks must not have heard about the late Tony Randall, the actor who played the neat half of TV's "Odd Couple." Randall fathered a child at age 78. No, he didn't live long enough to see the child into middle school, but he did help preserve the race.
I'm no Tony Randall, but I have a 2-year-old and an infant, although they're not exactly helping me turn back the clock.
I'd always heard children make you feel younger. So far, I'd say parenting makes me feel younger in the same way a lawn mower makes a tennis ball seem more whole. That is, it doesn't.
Before I was a parent, I didn't stop in the middle of a sentence to wonder what I was talking about. My brain's been in a blender for a couple of years, and I have no reason to believe I'll be able to find the off switch. Daiquiri, anyone?
While I'm at it, I'd like to dispel another aging canard. When I was a kid there used to be a commercial - I don't remember if it was Geritol, Metamucil, hair color or what - that showed a spunky older woman who said, "because you're not getting older; you're getting better."
Even with my underdeveloped skepticism I knew this was garbage. Now that I'm approaching 50, I can confirm it.
To date, I'm getting better at:
- Growing hair in my ears. Don't really need it there or want it there, yet there it is, a proficiency nonetheless.
- Falling asleep during "Saturday Night Live." My wife and I record it now because we don't have the stamina to make it through Saturday AND Saturday night.
- Worrying that I left an appliance (iron, stove, coffee pot) turned on that will burn down our house. Evidently age carries with it a haunting worry mechanism.
- Not reading fine print. An eagle eye for the first 40 years of my life, now I have glasses, and I still have to ask my wife to read things to me.
- Turning calories into stored fat. I had trouble doing this when I was in high school and college. Now I'm all nice and bouncy.
Actually, most things in my life are better, none of which happen to be me. I have a good job, lovely wife, two great kids, a nice house and even a 401(k) plan. Let's compare that with life during my physical peak some 25 years ago when I lived in an unfinished attic (in the summer), an unfinished basement and a barn. I had no savings account. I did things such as strip and wax floors for a living. My car often broke down. And, of course, I'd yet to meet my wife.
Maybe that's how this aging thing is supposed to work. As we lose physicality, our lives become fuller and easier. That's good, because I don't think I could hack living in a barn now, although the experience does allow me to answer in the affirmative when someone asks if I was raised in a barn.
So I won't try to hide my birthday next week. I won't try to convince people that, what with medical advances, 47 is the new 30. And, I'll never, as long as I live, substitute the word "young" for "old" in an attempt to sugarcoat my age. I've always bristled when people declare themselves, for example, 70 years young. Aging doesn't work in reverse. People don't grow young.
Plus, minus the ear hair and whatnot, getting older is not so bad ... so long as no comets strike.
Tom Martin is editor of The Register-Mail. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.