Where’s My Peach?
Writers and poets have written of aging for thousands of years. Some decry life’s twilight; others embrace the dying of the light. Some of their words ares profound, others banal or saccharine . None of their prose and poetry helped them avoid age’s bitter, irreversible culmination. They all died in the end. Some are remembered; others remain unknown.
Now its time for my lament.
When I was fourteen or so, in September (or was it April?), I was wandering around a nearly deserted municipal swimming pool on an overcast morning. With no girls in skimpy swimsuits to admire, I mused on my life. I felt wonderfully old. I was now Fourteen! I was a teenager! I carefully shaved every other week or so. I thought about my future. In a year and a half I could get a learner’s permit and learn to drive; In four years I’d graduate high school then be in college and, I hoped, no longer be an skinny, acne plagued virgin. When people asked how old I was I’d proudly announce fourteen and they would feign surprise. “You’re almost a man,” they would tell me with a condescending smile, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
My speculation that sweet morning took me further into my uncertain future. It seemed utterly impossible that in the year 2000, so amazingly distant in time, I would be fifty-two years old. Fifty-two? It was unimaginable, like imagining I’d move to Jupiter or Mars. My father and mother, who were of course old, were just forty-two and thirty-eight. None of my high school teachers were that old. I knew really old people of course; my grandparents were in their early seventies; somehow they didn’t count. It was as if to my teenage mind they belonged to a separate, barely noticed, race of gray headed creatures.
In 1966, at eighteen, I graduate high school, then spent the summer working frantically to lose my virginity with last minute success. In 1969 I turned 21. Legal whisky! College graduation and admission to law school. A year away from my (first) wedding. Am I an adult now? Is that a good thing?
1974: Out of law school, married four years. I was in awe of those older attorneys who seem so – lawyerly. 1978: thirty, old enough to be a judge but still young enough to feel childish and chase, and catch, women.
In 1988 I turn forty, a sobering number. Can I really be that old? I dread some sniggering friend giving me a bunch of black balloons.I am thankful I still have a full head of brown hair with no trace of gray.
1998: I attain the impossible, chilly age of fifty. I try to tell myself its a mistake, but I can’t make the math come out right. I can no longer deny I am middle aged. At my high school reunion everyone talks of disease and grandchildren.
And then, in a blink, comes 2000 and I look back at that awkward fourteen year old boy from the other end of time’s tunnel.
Now another decade plus has slipped quietly by and I find myself answering the question, “how old are you?” with words that taste of ashes: “I’m 63.” My interrogator feigns surprise, smiles then tells me I look so much younger. I want to slug her… She thinks I’m old! I’m on the verge of telling a young client, “I’m old enough to be your father,” when I realize with bitter shock I am in fact old enough to be his grandfather. No one calls me young man anymore. I wonder if people know my teeth are made of plastic.
I am not old! I am not old!!
My face has somehow, and I’m not quite sure just when it happened, sagged here and there and wrinkles have crept across its once smooth and hairless flesh. My body has, when I wasn’t paying attention, grown surprisingly fat and flabby and parts of it refuse to work quite as well as they did before.
The number of my pill bottles crowd the bottom shelf in my medicine cabinet. My young doctor talks of cholesterol, liver enzymes, and my elevated blood pressure; he always listens carefully to my heart and feels my calfs for swelling. Hair sprouts from my ears and nose. I still have most of my hair but gray has spread alarmingly far above my temples. There are splotches on my wrists. I try to ignore the stiffness in my legs and the aches in my hands and shoulders. The slightest pain in my chest sends me into panic.
But I am not old.
My father, when he was about forty, told me he had never felt old, never reached an age when he felt like an adult and put away childish thoughts. He told me at first he had been surprised by this, that he expected to reach some age when, magically, he would become an adult. He said it would probably be the same for me. I wasn’t so sure; I wanted badly to become an adult both inside and out. But he was right.
Inside, where it really counts, I am still that underweight, half grown, pimply kid. Can I pass the math test tomorrow? Will she go to the dance with me – I wish she was better looking – will she let me touch her tits? Should I go out for football again? Will my parents discover I’m drinking beer? I wish I was more popular – I feel so invisible sometimes…. Will this year never end? I am still insecure, still aroused by beautiful women, still able to play the fool, still so anxious to impress, and still haunted by chronic self-doubt. Behind my crinkled face my mind remains unchanged from when I was young: still eager to play, still able to view the world with wonder.
Or at least it seems that way.
I am sixty-three; in twenty years I will be in my eighties. If I live that long (should I be cremated or buried? How many people will attend my funeral? Who will speak of me?) Will that distant me still feel the same? Who can say?
But I am not old. I am not old. At least not yet…
MY FLICKR GROUP: Faces of Maturity
Photo (not of me) by Étienne Ljóni Poisson, subject to this creative commons license
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