Don’t let the Old Man in?
I recently read an interesting email exchange between several of my West Point classmates. The topic was aging. We are approaching our fortieth reunion; we are no longer young men.
One quoted Clint Eastwood. When asked what kept him going, he stated “I get up every morning and don’t let the old man in.” In response another replied tongue-in-cheek “I did as you said and wouldn’t allow the old man in. I didn’t allow any of them in, just like you said. But it’s awfully cold outside and two of them died, and another has pneumonia.” While humorous (and a bit macabre), it has deeper meaning.
Like a zombie apocalypse, there seem to be a mass of Old Men banging on my door. Many are the threatening types: ones that want to strip me of my physical vitality, mental capacity or health.
Intellectually I know I’m getting older, but I still want to hold on to pieces of my youth. Sometimes I have gotten carried away and my imagination racks up bills my body can’t pay. A while back I tried to out-sprint the younger participants in an interval workout. Unfortunately, I had exceeded the manufacturer’s warranty a few miles back. I ruptured a quad muscle.
When the doctor realized that it was a soft-tissue tear, he stated “If you were a high-performance athlete, we might do the surgery, but not in your case.” Apparently I’m one step closer to the “Do not resuscitate” list. Of course, that’s not what he said, but I likened it to when my old 1976 Pinto needed repair and the mechanic said, “I wouldn’t put any more money in that baby if I was you.” I’d really like to keep that Old Man out, but he has a way of creeping in for a periodic visit as my bad back and knees will attest.
I have some rotten genes when it comes to cardiovascular issues. I inherited that guy, he didn’t even have to knock. Unfortunately, because I don’t eat as healthy as I should, he has gotten to rummage around the house. I have already had a couple of “incidents” that have required treatment. I make promises to myself to do better. Maybe I can keep some of the doors shut, but of that, I’m not confident.
I am also getting more forgetful these days. That chap has really made inroads. I didn’t help things by accumulating several concussions, some pretty severe, playing sports back in the day when protecting your noggin wasn’t a priority and “stop being a wuss-get back in there and play” was the name of the game. Honestly, this is the one that worries me the most. The thought of losing “me” and being a vacuous shell in a still functioning body terrifies me. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are horrifying to contemplate.
But there are also a few good guys trapped out there that we ought to let in, like the ones that have captured the “Wisdom” I’ve accumulated over my lifetime. After all, I paid the tuition for that knowledge through a life’s battles; I don’t want that to go to waste. This is the one I would like to share with the world. I have tried to pass some of that wisdom to my kids. I have also tried to mentor other younger people around me, to encourage them and help them to not make the same mistakes. I’ve had varying degrees of success, but most of the failures have been my own. Perhaps I am the “Old Man” (literally) that they don’t want to let in.
There is also “Moderation.” Some of my maladies are the result of a “life too well lived.” I did some things to excess in my youth. When I was a young Lieutenant in Germany, our motto was “work hard, play harder.” I still struggle with this one. It is sometimes a fine line between staying youthful and playing the fool. I always liked the quote from Jimmy Buffett, “Growing older but not up.” Perhaps I should restate it, “I’ve grown up (a little) as I grew older.” We ought to at least let him get a foot in the door.
Perhaps the guy I am most glad that I let in is “Faith.” He wasn’t always welcome, but he gets to freely roam the house these days. He has transformed my life and honestly put me at ease about the rest of the “Old Men” wrestling for my carcass. My faith tells me it’s OK to grow old and face the physical deterioration because my soul will win out in the end. Whether that comes sooner or later is not up to me alone.
So yes, there are a few of those “Old Men” I hope will stay locked out and if they freeze, I will be none the sadder. But I hope and pray that I will be intelligent enough to be able to discriminate among the pack and perhaps be strong enough to hold the others at bay, while the good guys make it in.
I guess I will just have to wake up tomorrow and wonder, “Which Old Man will come knocking today and should I let him in?”