It started earlier, but I didn’t realize it until I was in my thirties, the aging process. It was the day I showed some kids in my back yard, probably at one of my daughter’s birthday parties, how I could do a running flip. I’d done it a “million” times when I was a kid. The running part went well – the flip part, not so hot. I landed on my seat, not my feet. I’d lost some agility over the years. My only thought, two weeks later when the ache had vanished, “I’ll get better.” (At doing the flip – at restoring my ability to do a flip). “I just need to turn back the clock a little,” I told myself, blind to the obvious truth, the aging process is a one-way street.
It kept happening; every decade brought new flops to the forefront. I had taken up jogging when I was in my twenties, slacked off and then picked it back up in my mid-thirties. It took two months before I could go around the block without stopping and gasping for breath that time round. More proof that the aging process was quietly at work. Eventually, I got the rhythm and was doing four miles every other day. “I’m going to do this forever! It’s so freeing! Well into my nineties,” I professed. My arrogance was limitless, like I could take getting into my nineties for granted. Then came my forties. I left behind the six-minute mile I did once a year on the high school track and ushered in the “why is my back aching so much” and the “sore knee” era. Followed by a few other conditions as my physicality digressed from a forty-year-old frame to a fifty. I was sure I’d get better, still believing the aging process was a curable malady.
My fifties started okay. “What’s the big deal?” By 54 I knew the answer to that question. I was forced to trade in the jogging sneakers for walking shoes, and add swimming and bike riding to make up for it. “I can take this routing into my nineties,” I told myself. “And, pick up jogging again, as soon as I get better!
Wham, Bang! In what seemed like 15 minutes, there were 60 candles on my birthday cake. The old coot was born. He was a tad wiser than that arrogant 30, 40 and 50-year-old self. Wiser, but still delusional. Every once in a while, I’d try jogging. It seemed easy the first week, and then my aging frame brutally reminded me why I’d given it up, hurting as much as that running front flip/flop disaster three decades earlier. Did I gain any wisdom? Not much. I still thought, “I’ll get better.
Introduction: Sometimes an introduction doesn’t fit at the beginning of an essay. Sometimes it belongs in the middle, or in this case, at the end, after I’ve finished my rant and wonder, “What is the point?” I guess this time, it’s my compulsion to report what lies ahead, for readers who, like me, never expected to get old. Or, I’m trying to give voice to myself and my fellow old coots that are youth, energy, flexibility, balance, health and memory challenged. To report that we aren’t asking for special treatment, just not to be marginalized and discarded out of hand. We’re not all there, that’s true, but we think we’ll get better. Let us live with the delusion.
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