I am not old. Then again, I’m not young either. My hair is gray, my beard is white, and my face is growing wrinkles and jowls. I can’t make it through the night without having to get up at least once to pee. I have colonoscopies and prostate exams that I never had to endure before. The majority of my family is gone now. No grandparents, no Aunts or Uncles, My Parents have been gone for years. I even lost my older Brother about 5 years ago. Thank God I still have my sister; but it’s just her and me now.
No, there’s no way to call me young.
It seems that the definition of old has changed a great deal since I was a kid. When my parents were my age now, they were old. It’s not just my perception either, the way they lived their lives were so much different from the way we do today. They dressed older. By the time my Mom was in her mid 50’s, her clothing would be considered matronly by our current standards. It’s hard to say the same about my Dad, back then men wore suits and ties. The only thing that changed as he aged was that he went from always wearing white shirts to colored ones. That was a result of societal changes though, not any attempts at being young. Their entertainment activities were old too. The big excitement was playing bridge with the neighbors once a month. Maybe they would go to the movies once in a while, but that was rare. I have a good friend who’s in his early 60’s who in the last 6 months has done Zip Lines, white water rafting and hang gliding. It would be preposterous to think my parents doing any of those things in their 50’s, much less 60’s.
Yet the night my father died, he told me that he still thought like an 18 years old man, not an old man about to die.
Still, I have to wonder; are the best days of my life behind me now? I’ve always been an overachiever over the years, and have been dammed successful in my accomplishments. I’ve managed people, led departments, and have even been responsible for entire companies. Now? I’m one of many who do the same thing; only responsible for my own results.
I absolutely loved raising my children. By far the absolute best memories of my life are times I spent with them. That’s actually one good thing about my illness. I was unable to work from the time my girls were small until they entered school. There were rough times of course. But what I was able to share with them then was beyond price. My girls are now grown and gone with careers and families of their own. I’ve done what I can, good and bad, and they are responsible for what happens for the rest of their lives.
I’ll never see those childhood days again.
But does that mean I’m done? Have I really completed any meaningful living? I can’t believe it; I won’t believe it. I may have climbed as high as I ever will up that corporate ladder, but I’m still working and have a good job with a great company. I don’t have the great responsibility I once had, but I don’t have the stress and pressure that went along with it either. I can still be successful and get satisfaction of a job well done. I’ve got plenty of fun things left to do too. I love to golf and have every reason to expect that to continue at least 20 more years. Some of the worst shellacking’s I’ve ever received on a golf course have been from guys in their 70’s. It’s not how far you can hit a ball it’s where you hit a ball. Age gives you patience and experience. And how fun is that to beat guys half your age? I’ve always loved to dance and there’s no reason to stop now! I don’t have the stamina to do a fast Lindy hop, but east coast swing and shag is still moving to the music, and that’s what dancing is after all. I’m in a good relationship that is fulfilling and real. Yes, she has wrinkles and colors the gray out of her hair, but she’s more beautiful and sexy to me than any 20 year old. Another advantage of being older; you learn that the inner self is what is beautiful. That can only get better, right? My kids might be grownups now, but I have the possibility of accepting spouses and grandchildren to love. It might be different, but can be just as important to me as before.
I’ll be honest I never thought I would live to be 40 years old. Not because when you’re young you can’t imagine what it’s like to be older. I knew that there was something wrong with me, and never expected to survive, especially with the number of times I tried to prevent it. When I made it to 40, reaching 50 still felt very unlikely. And yet, here I am. And with my awareness and treatment I think that living to 60, 70 or even longer is possible and likely.
Are the best years of my life over? Who really knows? I could be hit by a bus on my way home tonight. I could contract some terminal illness; I may already have one that I don’t know about. My depression might return in spite of everything I’m doing, and I could end up finally being successful at killing myself. On succumb to some outrageously dangerous behavior in a manic rage.
Any day could be the last one.
I have the power to decide how I measure my days. Maybe my career advancement has peaked. I may not be able to perform the way I once did. I’ve had my time as a family man and a busy life with the wife and kids. But whether I see that as better or worse is a matter of perspective and choice. I can mourn the passing of youth or embrace the changes of life. My Dad chose to live the life of an old man, but never stopped feeling young. So what will I choose? Have I reached the top? Am I coasting to the end? Or is the best yet to come?
I’ll let you know tomorrow. Today isn’t over yet.