Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aging Gracefully --- Yeah, right

James O. Born

It's hell getting old. Just ask Paul Levine. The problem is I don't think you realize you’re old until one day it smacks you in the face like a mature salmon swimming upstream. In the time it takes to hold your cheek and wonder what the hell just hit you, life has rolled past and left you a bewildered, out of touch, grumpy, potentially lethal weapon behind a car that seems to move way too fast.

I'm not going to whine about being old. I realize in the big scheme of things my late, extremely late 40s, is not that old. Not when the 105-year-old woman I read about last week is looking for her twenty-third husband. But I have noticed a couple of warning signs creep into my life over the past few years.

The photos from upper left to lower right tell the slow decline of my life. From 1966 in my backyard, 1986 with Mas Nakayama at a karate seminar and earlier this year at a Romance Writer's of America party with C.J., a favorite of the group.

I could mention the obvious things like I have to wear increasingly strong reading glasses along with my contacts on a daily basis or that it takes me more than five minutes of running before my knees start to loosen up and my ankles don't hurt. But it's the other, more subtle clues that have made me feel my age.

I noticed that when I'm in the grocery store Muzak tunes are songs I listened to as a teenager. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young now play in the background while I shop for fat-free milk and high-fiber oatmeal. Monday night I did something that I don't think I had ever done before; I actually read a Playboy cover to cover. I read the articles and had too little interest in the photographs to make me comfortable. I know that's an old joke but somehow it's not as funny when you're lying in bed thinking - this is a really good story on a 1970s Oakland Raiders.
I complain about loud music, don't understand rap or its appeal in any way. I'm offended by poor manners whether they're directed at me or not and I clearly feel that society has gone to hell. These are all things for which I teased my father about what he was my age. The difference was he was part of the greatest generation and had gone to war not only to save America but Europe as well.

A month or so ago I spoke to my friend Paul Levine on the phone and I'm afraid much of our conversation centered around various surgeries to repair sports injuries from our youth. It was the highlight of my September

So if you see me at a conference or a book signing, looking pissed off and irritable, at least you'll know why.

Any signs that you are aging?


  1. jim, late 40's, no matter how extremely late they may be, look fine from where i am standing. i'll be rapidly approaching my late 50's next month.

    but think of it this way: at least you can still go running, you can still listen to csn&y at the shops. and you don't have to be old to not like rap. my kids - in their 20's, don't like it either.

    of course i get panic attacks when i can't remember how old i am or when i wake up and don't know where i am. but then i always think, hell, i got this far without too much bother, let's see what lies ahead.

    'because the past is just a good bye....' wonderful words, listen to it, 'teach your children'


  2. I remember when I first heard "Satisfaction" in an elevator.

    My body is rapidly falling apart. Last night, sitting at the computer, I moved wrong and hurt my knee. WTF?

    I am the oldest person in my office. The pretty young women I work with are my daughter's age. I am the butt of old man jokes daily.

    But my first sign that I was no longer young happened in my 30's. I tell this only because I think you'll like the example, Jim.

    When I was in the service, one of the things I loved to do was run the obstacle course. It was like a giant jungle gym. Great fun.

    In my 30's, I was in Quantico where I had an opportunity to run the Marine course. I jumped at it.

    I felt like I had cement in my pockets. I could no longer do the things I had once done with joy and ease.

    I wasn't old, but I was no longer young. That hurt.

    Now, every morning I look in the mirror and think, Jesus, how did that happen?

  3. I had my first (and only so far) age crisis at 26. I was convinced that it was all downhill from that point on. Funny how wrong we can be sometimes. Periodically I do something a little crazy to challenge myself physically. I'm about due for another one of those episodes. Hula-hoop endurance contest anyone?

  4. James O. Born10/29/2009 8:18 AM

    I'm happy I feel as good as I do but I still see the signs everyday.


  5. My husband and I have an ongoing discussion about being "middle aged." He says he's not. I keep asking if he's going to live past 100.

  6. When I was first hired I was the youngest person in my group. Now after 33 years of working the same company I find myself one of the oldest and working with the children of former co-workers. Cr*p! Any day now I expect someone's grandchild to turn up on the job. Double Cr*p! When that happens I am so retiring!! .... Mo

  7. Great post Jim. :-D I'm feeling old at 45. I get wistful for the 80s and my airforce days have taken on a rosier glow. I've been under a lot of stress and strain this last 10 months and I'm feeling my age and then some. Eyesight is fading AGAIN and things hurt... And I've got writers block bigtime with a non-fiction book contract. Sigh.

    Meanwhile, we've got a road trip coming up in two weeks and we're also going home to Australia for Christmas...that'll perk me up. So long as I can get past writing about pesky Yosemite Valley at this point.

    And Jim, you'll never be old...not with those cheeks. NO, I'm not talking about your butt...

    Think I'll go put some 70s music on and look at my essay... Maybe later I can sneak a peak at my novel mansucript... yeah...

    Peace and mung beans, baby...

  8. Gettin' old sucks. But it sure beats the alternative.

  9. It was more than a little disconcerting (I'm 45, for the record) to find that the new jazz band director at my son's high school was born in 1986--the year I graduated from college. I suppose it's all relative--to Paul Levine I probably seem like a young whippersnapper--but shit, Kemosabe, this sorta sucks.

  10. The nice thing about getting old is that you have memories to share.

    I was just telling my son about the 1964 baseball All-Star Game at NEW Shea Stadium. I sat in a box behind 3rd base with my father...a relative in organized baseball got us the seats.

    I was a Giants' fan, and the 9th inning was all Giants. Juan Marichal came in to pitch in the top of the ninth and shut down the American Leaguers. In the bottom of the inning, up comes Willie Mays, with the Nationals trailing by a run. Mays walks and steals second. Orlando Cepeda hits a bloop single and Mays challenges Joe Pepitone's arm, scoring from second and tying the game. Another walk and Johnny Callison of the Phillies smacks a 3 run, walk off homer.

    Now, the other thing about getting older is that you tell stories that go on and on and on and bore the pants off everyone.

    Later that same year, 1964, I saw my first Penn State football game. Rip Engle was the head coach, Joe Paterno was already in his 13th year on the staff, coaching the QB's. It was Saturday, Nov. 21, and the temperature was 8 degrees. Penn State shut out Pitt, 28-0, and as I recall...............

  11. Just to make you all feel better....

    I'm in my late thirties-most of my fellow students at Bel-Rea are at least 10 years younger than me, with the majority being in their mid-twenties.

    My doctor has been lecturing me for the last five months about my cholesterol. The word terrible has been used repeatedly.

    My friends at school? They go out a lot at night, usually when I'm getting ready to go to bed, I mean we have class at 8am the next morning! I'm occasionally called the old woman.

    Every now and then I start feeling pretty hip and part of the crowd and then one of them says something that reminds me that they were born when I was in high school.

    I gotta get new friends.

  12. At 53 I finally joined a gym determined to get in shape. (No question I need it.) I'm up to 50 minutes of cardio EVERY day, and weight training every other day, sometimes with a trainer who would slap General Patten if she ever met him. (See, I really am old.)

    But here's the great part, aside from the few inches I've dropped. Now when I hurt like hell, I assume it's because of the workouts, not the arthritis.


  13. PS

    I forgot to say, Fight Back.

    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Dylan Thomas