I’m new at being old, so be patient with me.
If you insist on getting all chronological about it, I am in fact sixty-three years old. I type that sentence boldly, for age does not bother me in the slightest—the number inspires no particular feelings. But it does confirm that I am inarguably well into the back nine of life.
Although I do not dodge the stark facts, there’s a certain insincerity to my admission of decrepitude. I do not feel different from how I’ve felt as far back as I can remember: I can walk as far as I ever could; I have no aches or pains worthy of mention; my hair is thick and still more brown than gray. (I think they put an egg in my food bowl once a week to keep my coat soft and shiny.)
On the other hand, I know from the reactions of young people that I am, by tribal standards, an old guy. That strikes me as an amusing novelty, for I’ve never been old before.
So…I accept old age intellectually without qualification. But also without conviction.
(For the sake of full disclosure I should mention my prostate.That’s a word that until the last few years had only a vague anatomical meaning. Now I typically awake during the night and hobble [we needn’t dwell on plantar fasciitis] to the toilet for relief that seems disproportionately modest relative to the inspiration.)
Knowing and gracefully accepting old age even while not really believing it has spurred me to practice very deliberately the art of being old. See me sit on the bench by the firehouse and watch traffic. Sometimes I sketch, sometimes I don’t. You see, the age thing provides the freedom to just sit there serenely without contrived excuse (e.g., without fumbling with a cell phone or glancing at a wristwatch). The flecks of gray at my distinguished temples and those tiny erosive rivulets across my cheek provide all the justification necessary.What could be more natural than an old guy sitting on a bench and otherwise not doing a goddamn thing?
It may be that anything worth not doing is worth not doing well. And so I strive on. No, I don’t feel old, but I’m persistent by nature and I’m willing to put in the time and effort required to get good at it…