Those pesky intimations of mortality

Many things happen the older one gets, and of those many things that happen, maybe ten percent are agreeable – the rest bite. Not to put a negative spin on it, but that’s the way it is. You either suck it up (as long as you are still capable of doing that) or you give up. I choose sucking sounds.

The changes that take place are subtle at first. I love hiking, for example, and I regularly (thanks to Max) take good walks, often twice a day. When on vacation Wendy and I hike on a regular basis. But, as time has gone by I’ve noticed more and more that I ‘feel’ it. I feel it in my calves when walking uphill, and I can get ever so slightly short-of-breath. All quite natural, my medical person assures me.

“All part of the aging process,” he says with what almost seems like a smirk to me. I mean, he’s what? About 35. What does he know? 

The old mind seems reasonably alert. I can still breeze through the NYT Sunday crossword in good time, and I’m an ongoing whiz with Jeopardy, especially with the ‘old guy’ stuff that none of the younger contestants ever seem to get. “What do you mean you don’t know who Syngman Rhee was? Who was president of South Korea at the time of the Korean War, Alex!”

The other stuff?? Puleeze, that’s personal. OK, suffice it to say that those squirm-worthy ads showing a smug looking middle aged couple who have left a cab waiting while they’ve been getting off horizontally haven’t yet applied. But should they in future, then all I can say is bless medical science. 

Otherwise, age is something that I can do nothing about. But, there are some other signs that are more of a verbal nature and which seem to apply largely to males. Males who have become, via the deaths of friends and other contemporaries, acutely aware of the fact that they too are mortal. But, being males, they try to shuck off their visceral internal response to grim-reaper manifestations by morbid humor.

“How are you doing, Charlie?” I say to a guy I haven’t seen in a while.

“Hey, any morning I wake up this side of the grass is a good day,” Charlie replies. “As long as you’re up looking down, you know you’re OK still.” 

And then we both chuckle having established an intimate bond of understanding and denial at the same time.

There are other comments in the same vein, such as “Looking at the flowers, not the bulbs, Looking at the box from the outside at a funeral; Knowing that the hymns are being sung for some other poor sap, Gazing at the stars not at the worms” and so on and so on. 

I remember no such comments even a decade ago, but now they have become omnipresent utterances by contemporaries, especially after the passage of a contemporary known to both.

As for recently deceased contemporaries; older is best, same age is unnerving as hell, and younger is devastating. I’ve looked at obituaries and seen items concerning the demise of somebody younger than I am and have, in all honesty, felt a sense of relief if there is an indication his death was a suicide. “Hey, that was his choice,” I tell myself.

Anyway, as my dear old Cockney landlady used to always say: “It’s a good life if you don’t weaken.” I was in my 30s at the time when she used to say that. I didn’t get it. Now I thoroughly understand it. So, I guess you’ve got to keep on truckin’ as long as you can.

By the way, this was not inspired by any feelings of morbidity, but simply arose from the comment the metaphorical ‘Charlie’ made the other morning. We aging farts get our inspiration where we can.


10 responses to “Those pesky intimations of mortality

  1. Funny, just the other day I found myself saying, in answer to the “How you doing”question: I’m alive, it’s a victory.


  2. I remember reading this a long time ago. “There’s more to life than increasing its speed.” It becomes more meaningful as another year hits the history books.

  3. All I can say to you Ian, Jazz and Deb, is yup…being there and doing that and it has morphed strangely for me…Damn!

  4. Whenever I ask a friend of mine how he’s doing, I can depend on him to say, “If I were any better I’d have to be twins”.
    Love it every time I hear it.

  5. What you might try – not that this confers immortality – is doing occasional very intense exercise, which will raise the upper ceiling of your capabilities and make hiking seem easier. I suggest interval-training (sprints) and/or weightlifting once a week.

  6. Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. ~Author Unknown

  7. Matey, when you wake up and your waterbeds burst, then you remember you haven’t got a waterbed, that’s when you’re getting old!

  8. I think aging is just another kind of bitter-sweet, like all of life. Several years ago, I became obsessed with reading the obituaries and mentally averaging out the ages of the newly deceased. I no longer do that, but prefer to spend that energy really appreciating that I am still here. I am now older than my father was when he died, but younger than my mother, and I hope to be here for a long time to come. As they say, old age is better than the alternative.

  9. Ruf swears by tabatas which are a form of interval training like G recommends. For myself, I walk every day and, since I am always late, it’s a fast walk. Seems to do the trick 🙂

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