I stare at the bathroom mirror waiting for the old guy looking back at me to get out of the way. I wait for the reflected image to change back to the way it used to look, you know, like it did just a short while ago when it looked like me. But, when was that? Was it just yesterday?
It's an odd phenomenon the first time you see someone in a photograph or video, then slowly realize the person in the photograph is you. Photographs posted on Facebook are the absolute worst. I usually recognize my shirt before it dawns on me who is wearing it. Believe me, no one can explain it to you until you see it for yourself. When you do, you will know you are shockingly, certifiably old!
I've read article after article about growing old, but they were all written by youngsters in their 40s and 50s who obviously haven't got a clue. They have philosophical reasoning to pigeon-hole us oldie-goldies just a few, speeding years beyond them in age, but I'll bet when it happens to them, they'll sit around just like I do, wondering what the hell happened. I retired yesterday, really, my daughter took me to Road Atlanta for my 65th birthday, but now I'm 73, Damn, what happened in between? I was there, wasn't I?
As a techie, I tend to analyze things in a trouble-shooting context, such as when I have a memory circuit that inexplicably drops a cycle or loses a byte or two of crucial information during neuro-retrieval. In the computer world of days gone by we called those data checks, today we just say the train left the station. I have a tendency to write-off those glitches as an environmentally induced phenomena, like lack of sleep or even diet, or one too many glasses of Cabernet. In my former life, I would code those non-repeatable happenings as NTF, or No Trouble Found and hustle to my next service call.
Sometimes my neural rememberer stalls or goes into a loop until something else comes along and forces whatever is hung up into the output gate and my mouth responds some ten seconds later than it should. Or even worse, something pops out that was lodged in there from yesterday. I know, it surprises all of us when it happens, but we can't believe we did it, no matter how much we study what will happen to us as we age. You simply aren’t prepared, I don't care what you read or hear.
I still think like I did yesterday, well, for the most part anyway, and I still like Rock and Roll music. All teenagers my age do. Both surviving Beatles are older than I am, and half of the Rolling stones will beat me out when it comes to longevity, but why do I feel like I'm inhabiting a different body than before.
My body hasn't been through any major physical turmoil, other than a few broken bones, a couple of ruptures and a blown appendix, but it has been exposed to the elements of growing up in south Florida. It has been sunburned, blistered, intoxicated, stoned, bruised, punctured, ruptured, operated on, strained, often exhausted, and sometimes pushed to the limit. But it is still my familiar body, and in spite of being pretty well used and somewhat worn, is actually pretty well taken care of, all things considered.
I quit smoking in 1979 in spite of Wall Street advertising and the overpowering, constant social badgering to rejoin the club, - I even fell off the wagon for a while in the early nineties - have remained smoke-free ever since. I listen to my wife about diet and exercise, and I get checked every six months or so to see if any more sun-damaged spots have surfaced on my youthfully over-exposed epidermis. I haven't worried about my hair since I was thirty. It didn't turn gray, it just turned loose. I still do yoga, although perhaps not as often as I should, and I walk a couple of miles every day. I'm not unhappy with my health regimen, although my doctor might disagree. But, then again, what does she know?
Bill Bryson wrote in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything: “Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.”
So, at 639,480 hours, I have a feeling I may be getting near the magic mark because I think my atoms are packing their bags.
So, keeping with the current philosophy of self-acceptance and grateful self-understanding, self-tolerance and promotion, compassion, and after spending several days in a depression that led nowhere, every time I look in the mirror now I can't help but say, “Hello, Handsome! Ready for another day?”
The old guy in the mirror just smiles. Damn, he looks a lot like my dad!