by Constance Daley
The American Reporter
St. Simons Island, Ga.
May 12, 2005
GETTING OLDER IS KILLING ME
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Sometimes things happen to you before you're ready for them. Take for instance walking around in a body that's 10 pounds heavier and an inch and a half shorter. I'm not ready for that all and less ready to hear the reason for the change.
"You're in the normal range for your height and weight even if the measurements changed," the doctor told me. "You're older now. Your metabolism has changed."
Hearing about things I can't change is a constant lately. Sure, I can lose weight but I can't add to my height. "Forget about it," the young, tall, slender advisors say. "Live in the moment," the always cheerful Pollyanna's will say. Wait until they have to live in my moment. I used to be them; they'll not be me until they put in the time, moment to moment.
Fortunately, aches and pains are not a problem for me. And, more often than not, I'll give in to vanity and keep my glasses in my pocket. I'll saunter out to the mailbox and decide to break into a run. My brain tells my feet to lift off the ground and nothing happens. Not only do I not run, but walking turned from the initial saunter into a slow shuffle. I believe I could march in place or go high-stepping forward, but the neighbors might talk.
Physically, I'm really doing fine. But emotionally, I believe I'm up against a formidable foe: the grim reaper. How am I supposed to grow old gracefully, which of course is my plan, if I can't jump in a cab, or hop on a bus?
What's next? That's what's killing me! It's the passage of time going faster and faster, not only week to week and month to month, but now year to year. Is it the pace of life injecting us with so much in so short a time that we hardly see it going? The Merry-Go-Round is going so fast we can't even see the brass rings let alone reach for one.
In the eighteen eighties Elizabeth Akers Allen wrote a lullaby that began: "Backward, turn backward, oh time in your flight, make me a child again just for tonight." It was verse after verse of that same sentiment, being rocked by Mama, cradled in her arms, etc. That's lovely but it's not what I'm looking for; I don't want to be a child again, or even a young wife and mother. I like who I am, where I am and what I'm doing.
I will take the world as it is but I want to go with the flow, keep ahead of the pack, so to speak, and all those other cliches classifying us in our middle years as a functioning body of society.
Seniors in high school and college are to be congratulated; they receive diplomas. A senior in the citizenry is handed discount coupons and can now start dancing to the tune, "I'm not getting older, I'm getting better." By the way, that song is not sung by the "graduate," but by those in attendance at the ceremony marking the passage. They mean well, but it's not the way it is.
What I'm griping about is that I feel cheated. Nobody likes to talk about the inescapability of dying and death because they say it's morbid. It's not morbid, I say, being faced with your own mortality when it's too late to do anything about it, that's morbid.
Getting older has been a joke for as long as I can remember. "The Over the Hill Gang" is one euphemism. To me, "over the hill" suggests a brisk climb and then a joyous run down the other side; perhaps, rolling and rolling all the way to the bottom. However, by the time oldsters get up the hill, they just fall down the other side.
William Demarest, actor, played uncle Charlie on "My Three Sons" and became a star at age 80. He joked with Johnny Carson during a guest appearance, saying: "If I had known I was going to live so long, I would have taken care of myself."
And that's the problem. Doctors have done an admirable job of keeping us alive - no matter what shape we're in. That's our own job. We can either exercise or not; we can either smoke or not; we can either use sunscreen or not; we can either take calcium or not. Whatever we did, the choice was always ours. Unfortunately, it takes 50 years to learn if we made the right choices.
The "sands of time" do not grind slowly as rumored. They pour through the hourglass at record speed. And the idea that 15 minutes of something wonderful is better than a lifetime of nothing special isn't really an either/or choice. I've had a lifetime of something wonderful -- unfortunately, it went by in fifteen minutes.
We were once watching the sun go down in an incredible display of light shimmering across the ocean and onto the sand where we stood. It seemed to take forever and its beauty became even more magnificent as it descended. Then, it just dropped beyond the horizon. Suddenly! That's what we were waiting for and yet, sadly, it was gone. It was quiet as we turned back toward the darkening path and someone in the group said lightly, "And just think. It will be right back in the morning."
That's an apt analogy for life; first, an incredible display of light shimmering across the years and then it just drops beyond the horizon. The analogy stops here. There will be no coming right back in the morning.