Aging without grace

Ed Smith
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I have a birthday tomorrow. I’ve been putting off writing about it. Truth be known, I’ve been putting off thinking about it.

By the way, by the time you read this my birthday will be long past, so you don’t have to e-mail me greetings or send me money orders. OK, money orders will be fine.

This next is the absolute God’s truth. I was, like Mary, pondering these things in my heart and wondering whether or not I should write about them. For a change of pace I decided, as I often do, to randomly read one of my columns from years past just as a distraction for a few moments.

The one I hit by sheer coincidence turned out to be from the fall of 1990, the title of which was “Ageless Wonder.” The first line read, “You must be getting old, b’y”! The column talks about how often one hears that line as you advance into older age.

Now, you tell me: is that a sign of what I should be writing about today or what?  I had a lot of fun with that concept in that column. In fact, it was one of my better efforts. But this is 20 — count them, 20 — years further on down the road, and I do mean down. It’s not so funny anymore.

Birthdays have never bothered me. Another day, another year gone. No big deal. That’s what I told my mother when she was 93. She looked at me wisely and never said a word.

I had the feeling there were words she would like to have said, but then decided that sort of language mightn’t be appropriate between mother and son. She probably wanted to say “bullshit.” I’m surprised she didn’t.

I must confess I don’t feel that good about tomorrow. Perhaps it has something to do with living on borrowed time. That’s what the Bible says. Question is, from whom am I borrowing it? And will he or she want it back? And if so, how will they get it? Would I be content to let someone else have some of my time? Oh right, I don’t have any left to lend.

I don’t think it’s the actual age itself that bothers me. It’s the general perception of the baggage which the age brings with it. I will now be seen as part of the Viagra generation, or the Cialis crowd. If driven to make a choice, by the way, I will stay with the Cialis lot. The women seem to have a great time, playing in the morning, playing in the afternoon, playing at night. At least, that’s what they sing about.

 Show me a woman who skips around playing a guitar and extolling the virtues of “play” at any time of day, and I’ll show you a happy man. It ain’t hymns these girls are singing.

Apart from that, this being older is not a rosy picture.

I, for example, am in a wheelchair. I know that has nothing to do with age, but I thought I’d mention it just for pity’s sake.

Only yesterday, one of my family was urging me to shave off my moustache because “there’s enough grey hair on your head already.”

Gotta have something for sex appeal, I said. He laughed heartily and advised me to find something else. My options, I assured him, are limited. He stopped laughing and nodded soberly.

Some men my age deal with this crisis by attempting to find three or four foolish virgins. That’s what good King David did in the Old Testament. We’re not told what Bathsheba had to say about it. We don’t know what the virgins themselves thought, or if they were still virgins when they left the palace. Then again, I suppose David had no access to Cialis.

OH has stated in front of witnesses on many occasions she has no objection to my bringing in two or three extra wives. However, she wishes to remain Wife Number One.

I have no idea what the perks and benefits may be for being on top of that particular totem pole, but I don’t think wives two, three and four would find being underneath to be particularly pleasant. Don’t think I would, either.

Then again, foolish virgins aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. Don’t know much about wiser ones.

I guess I’m lucky, in a way. I’ve never felt the weight of the years too much, having experienced mental and emotional developmental arrest around the age of 16. One of my fears is that this birthday will take me out of adolescence and into early adulthood. That could be traumatic for one of my temperament. People who know and love me now might not recognize me. Having gotten used to me the way I am, they mightn’t even like me.

A few days ago, a group of us were talking about the different kinds of loneliness, one being the loneliness of being older. We came to the conclusion that this happened often because older people no longer feel useful, and too often don’t have any purpose in life. The family has grown up and gone and they’ve retired from their jobs. Sometimes they find themselves in seniors homes where they have nothing meaningful to do.

I’m fortunate in that I have never felt that way. No matter how useless I am, I’ve always felt useful. No matter how unimportant it is, I’ve always felt that what I’m doing is important. I lose that and life would be devoid of meaning in a hurry.

And there’s always this borrowed time business. Those of us who play poker have a phrase for when you run out of money in a friendly game and are allowed to keep playing anyway. That’s where I am in life. Playing on my face.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is

Geographic location: Springdale

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Recent comments

  • Ashley
    October 04, 2010 - 08:52

    I was discussing the stages of life recently with my colleagues actually, and a similar topic came up about loneliness. One of my colleagues said he knew someone older who did not feel the need to make new friends, so they asked him why. He said it's because he already has or had great friends, and is no longer in need of socializing. I think it shows that you have lived a good life when you are contented at the end. You are never useless, but you have accomplished all that you are set out to do.