In just a few short months Pete Edwards will reach the age of seventy. Many who reach this age would class 70 as the gateway to old age though is not an important mile-mark to anyone but my close family and of course myself. Getting older is a strange state to find oneself in. We all know that unless an unfortunate accident or disease takes us early, old age is as inevitable as death itself but few of us really prepare ourselves for the changes ahead at this time of our lives.
From our earliest recollections, we become aware that old people surround us, although way back then almost everyone is old so we quickly become accustomed to the idea. Even with this earliest knowledge, growing old is not actually connected to us in a personal way. We think old age is something other people suffer, something of not much importance in our lives. This state of denial persists until one day we find ourselves experiencing what only happens to others. It has slowly and silently taken over our minds and bodies. As if without warning, we become infected by a terribly debilitating disease for which there is no cure, and what is worse, even our closest friends and family show little concern or compassion. We are alone in a failing body with little sympathy to ease the pain.
When in a younger more youthful time, old age to me meant graying hair and a few wrinkles. No one told me it would hurt. No one prepared me for the loss of hearing, the loss of teeth, the inability to get a good night's sleep. No one told me even the simplest task or activity would become a monumental challenge. The plight of the woman on television who had fallen but could not get up all of a sudden becomes a real threat to me. After the age of 70 one slip could mean disaster, yet our mind seems still to remind us of our youthful exploits.
For a soon to be 70 year old I consider myself in remarkably good condition but I look in much better shape than I really am. A little like a vintage automobile can still manage a trip to the store, but if you want to get there in one piece, don't try going off road. From the moment I wake, mostly at 3 or 4 a.m., the stiffness and aches remind me of the predicament I am trapped in. Regardless of what the pharmaceutical companies would have you believe, there is no relief for a 70 year old body. No running carefree along the beach at sunset, chopping wood while camping in the woods, partying till the early hours. All quite possible in your still denying mind but impossible in reality. Contrary to popular belief it is not possible to exercise old age away. Lotions, potions and vitamins do little good either. The only relief is in the mind. It is the last bastion of youth, in your dreams everything is still possible but reality must eventually be faced. From this point on you will always be old. Always! There is no going back.
Strangely, there are some benefits to owning a failing body. My wife of over 40 years is still a gorgeous movie star in my dimming eyesight. Her touch is just as sensual as ever. He voice as tender. Her love as comforting. She tells me that she still sees me as the man she married and remain her protector, but I am not so sure. God was prepared for my old age even if I wasn't.
All in all, people are nicer to me now. I have pissed a lot of people off in my life but it is becoming much harder to do. I find for the most part people make allowances for us old folk. I rarely get verbally abused when driving like an idiot. I do that much more now. People are more patient when my memory falters, apart from my wife, that is, because hers is going too. I get to park in those places that for years were the only spaces empty in an overcrowded parking lot. I really like that. I no longer have to go to work every day, although work was rarely a chore for me it is nice to stay in bed when it's raining outside. Medicare is a good thing too! So is the return of my Social Security investment. I am determined to enjoy that for a long, long time.
Now days, drinking a little too much hardly makes a difference to the way I naturally walk or act. stumbling around is the norm now. I often wonder if it would make any difference during a roadside sobriety test, as walking a straight line or standing on one foot has become a fond memory. Do the police make allowances for old people? Do they let you do it over when you fall, or just support you a little? Do they prompt you while reciting the alphabet backwards? I wonder how that works when you are old?
Meeting people older than myself has proved an unimaginable pleasure. They still view me as a young whippersnapper and remind me of my youth. The feeling of being younger than them is reward enough. The feeling of superiority is overwhelming. Strength returns. The feeling that someone would benefit from your help is uplifting. Alas, it is only a dream!
Well, Pete Edwards is officially an old man. Someone to pity. Someone who needs compassion. A has-been on the brink of death.
Then again, maybe not!
I think, that's what I think.