A real old guy reflects on art of aging
I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my 24th birthday last weekend. Well, I didn't so much celebrate it as acknowledge it, the way inmates at the notorious penal colony in French Guiana might have grimly scratched a mark on the side of a coconut tree to memorialize that yet another year had passed since they arrived at that jolly resort destination.
But unlike Papillon, who escaped from Devil's Island clutching a sack of coconuts, you cannot escape getting old. (OK, you can. But it's not, you know, a terrific alternative.)
Some people try to turn the age clock back through liposuction or by having their sagging facial skin stapled to the back of their noggins. Others radically change their diets and begin eating nuts and fiber instead of honey-bunches of bacon. A friend told me that when you get over 50, "you gotta go with the grain." He apparently really went with the grain because he seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in restrooms. As a smart man familiar with the perils of going with too much grain once said, "It's one thing to be regular, another to be UNSTOPPABLE!"
I try not to get depressed at birthdays. A voice in my head says, "Hey, 54 years old is quite young by biblical standards. Methuselah lived to be 969." Then another voice in my head says, "Yeah, but Methuselah's brother Bernie died at age 49." And the other voice says, "Yeah, but he was run over by an ox cart. That doesn't count." And the other voice says, "OK, but the Aztecs rarely lived more than 45 years." And the other voice says, "That's because they ate too much corn and grain and were too regular."
And the voices continue on like a couple of philosophical cage fighters while I refill my wine glass, hum "Happy birthday to me" and consider the age-old question, Just how painful IS liposuction?
Inevitably my innate optimism wins out, and I realize that even in my old, decrepit state, life is good. Much better than the aforementioned alternative. In fact, there's a lot of good to be said about getting older. You aren't as dumb as you were. You know, for instance, that there's some catch to every product sold via TV informercials. Like, that rotisserie machine looks pretty cool, but you know it's going to be hard to clean and will take up too much counter space. I think that's called wisdom.
The thing about living a long, happy life is not to get carried away. Woody Allen said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying." That would be a good trick. And God knows Woody looks like he's pulling it off. If his jowls drop any farther, he'll have to tuck them into his socks.
When it comes to a long, happy life, wisdom compels us to focus on the "happy" instead of the "long." As Methuselah reportedly said, "Don't worry. Be happy. And watch for ox carts."
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