People always approach me, wanting to share the pain and loss of getting old, which makes me happy that I don’t have many friends. I have nothing bad to say about getting old, and I don’t speak poorly of it.
It’s the one thing every human has in common with every other human. I don’t intend to waste much time arguing with other people; there is too much in life worth doing.
For me, growing older is about several things. One is sharing what I have learned. Another is accepting what I have lost. A third is appreciating what I have gained, learned, and experienced.
Grandma Moses was correct when she said life is what you make of it at any age. George Bernard Shaw was also correct when he wrote that we don’t stop laughing when we grow old; we grow old when we stop laughing.
Jon Katz said it doesn’t matter how old you are; it matters how you choose to be old. And believe me when I tell you, it is a choice, no matter what your body says.
Yesterday, I learned that I would have surgery on my foot to remove a bone spur.
As I was leaving the doctor’s office, I heard a nurse saying to another nurse, “because of his age, he has to get the surgery cleared by his cardiologist and his primary care physician, and he needs to get blood work done as well.”
They are worried I’ll drop dead while having my bone spur removed. What irony, I thought, to survive open-heart surgery and be done it by a bone spur.
For a second, I had thought, “poor guy, he’ll be running around like a hungry chicken.” I took a few more steps before I realized she was talking about me.” Wow, I thought, I’m 74, I am old. I have the older man’s belly and sometimes, the old man’s shuffle.
I never thought I’d make it this far. In my life, and at different times, I drank, smoked, gambled, suffered many panic attacks, and upended my life at 60 when I got divorced, left the normal behind, and fled to the country.”
A shrink said he had never seen a human being undertake as much change as I had. I don’t think he was optimistic.
I believe Americans are tough on older adults. We are not allowed in most movies; there are few books about us, no songs, we don’t appear in fashion shows, are never invited to host those TV awards.
When people talk about us, they talk about the million dollars we are supposed to have amassed to age safely, about dementia, caretaking, and nursing homes. We are expected to fade into the b background, take our medications, visit our doctors and get out of the way.
Children no longer seem to see us when we run into them, and it’s true, so many older adults become invisible over time, as our society often leaves them few roles beyond dying. I don’t mind any longer when young men and women rush to help me carry heavy bags of dog food out to my car.
I try to mention regularly that I have sex with Maria as often as possible and treasure it. I give thanks to God every time.
Every time I mention sex, someone is horrified at the image of an old bald man daring to have sex at 74 and write about it. Some say the image is disgusting. Nuts to them, They are disgusting. Sex is love; it is a pure celebration of humanity.
Can you believe it? A beautiful, brilliant, loving, and creative person wants to have sex with me, even gets pissed off if I’d rather sleep a while longer?
I won’t be given anybody else’s label, left or right, and I won’t be stuck with anybody else’s idea of me. Few things in life cannot ever be taken from me. That is my identity.
I’m happier than I’ve been at any time in my life. I have a wonderful wife I adore, a daughter and granddaughter to cherish, a blog I love to write on, readers I love to write, photos I love to take, dogs and donkeys I love to live around, good deeds to do every single day.
Like everyone else my age, I have friends who are sick or have died. Rather than grieve their loss, I am grateful that the fates gave them to me to know and that I was and am alive to know them. I’m proud of every one of the 26 books that I wrote and every single hair that I’ve lost.
I am blessed to finally have gotten around to figuring out how to do good (thank you, Donald Trump, for getting me off of my ass).
We all know the downsides of aging; time seems to outrun me sometimes. And, of course, I get closer and closer every day to dying. Death is no longer a remote thing I don’t need t think about. If I’m lucky, it will be years away. But it could just as easily be tomorrow. That alters one perspective about what is important and what isn’t.
A doctor told me that you know you are getting old when something hurts every day. I am getting older—every day.
Once in a while, I look back on my regrets, mistakes, lost opportunities, the people I hurt. I’m sorry I didn’t enjoy life more or make better decisions, or treasure time. I worried too much and enjoyed life too little.
I think it’s important to acknowledge the pain and mistakes of life and the joy and accomplishment.
But here I am, the old guy, the nurses, talk about when they schedule operations. One of the most interesting things about aging is that you can’t conceive of it when you’re young, and by the time you figure out who you are and how you want to live, the sun is going down.
A pastor friend once told me that when I get old, I should surprise myself. “Surprise yourself as often as you can,” he said. “Surprise the people around you. “Surprise the people you love and the people you don’t.”
I surprise myself all the time. Just look at my underwear.
My face is looking older in the mirror. But it’s still my face, and I respect it and give thanks for it. There is something very liberating about growing old. I haven’t had a panic attack in years. There doesn’t seem to be any point.
As I get older, I think I have a shot at being a better human, one of the most significant ambitions and goals I still have, along with learning to be honest and authentic.
I realized a few months ago that I have everything I need and want nothing that I don’t have. That is an astounding feeling; I never thought it would come.
I can almost feel the day coming when I am free at last to be me, look at my life with great pride and gratitude and joy. I worked for it. I earned. I will keep working for it.
I’m not yet there, but I can smell it.
How much fun that will be, what a great thing to look forward to, what a great opportunity to bring meaning to my existence.