I was going to hold off on writing about “aging gracefully” for let’s see…… maybe….. another twenty or thirty years. I really don’t feel old. People I know tell me that I look pretty good for someone who’s best days are behind him. “Thanks a lot guys.” I eat healthy, walk at least twenty miles a week and I take kick boxing classes with people half my age. I admit I have some minor aches and pains every once in a while, but that’s nothing to worry about. My knees get a little stiff when the weathers cold, and my teenage son is now faster than me. It should be noted that he likes to prove it over and over again.
I was actually feeling pretty good today after a brisk walk with my dog, Chase. That was until I retrieved my mail and saw a big thick envelope with AARP plastered in big bold letters across the front, and my name on it. Enclosed were a card and an application to join a national group for those with a few miles on them, which would entitle me to wonderful benefits in my retirement years.
Hey wait a minute. I don’t intend to retire for years! Maybe those nice people at AARP made a mistake and sent the card to the wrong address. I don’t even have grandchildren yet. This afternoon I spent a few minutes staring at myself in the mirror. I looked about the same as I did yesterday. I was getting a little gray, but it’s on the sides. My wife says it makes me look distinguished. Oh, oh, I think I see a wrinkle that wasn’t there yesterday. Darn that AARP! I was a strong and healthy viral man in my prime just yesterday, and now they have me almost ready for a rocking chair. I guess I’ll get this post done on “aging gracefully” before it’s too late. Who knows, my wife may already be on the phone reserving a room for me at the local retirement home.
What does it really mean to “age gracefully?” I looked up grace in the dictionary to get a better perspective, and I found this definition which I quote,
“Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement or proportion.”
I think I may be in a lot of trouble. When I think of being graceful I think of ballerina’s dancing to the Nutcracker Suite, or ballroom dancers gliding smoothly across the dance floor. People who know me will tell you that not only do I have two left feet, but when it comes to grace, I’m a combination of a Clydesdale and a bull in a china shop.
This aging gracefully thing is starting to worry me a little bit. I asked a few people who I know what they thought aging gracefully meant. I received a number of different answers. One told me it means accepting that we all get old. That it’s a natural part of living. Another told me to give up the fight to stay young. It’s a losing battle. Why not just relax, grab a bag of chips and a beer, and enjoy the time I have left. A third person said it means not becoming a grumpy old man who complains all the time. I don’t know if I like any of those answers; especially the last. My wife says I’m already getting a little grumpy.
Last night I sat down, closed my eyes, and took about an hour to think about aging gracefully, and what it means to me. I’ve always believed that life is a wonderful journey, but it sometimes seems so short. Looking back it seems that just yesterday I was a kid running through the woods on a hot summer’s day. Not far behind me was my dog, who was as young and strong and full of life as I was. It seemed like the endless days would go on forever.
When you’re young, the days feel like they’re moving like molasses. Now the days on the calendar are flying by, and I can’t slow them down. I look at my son who’s now sixteen, and almost as tall as me. It feels like only a moment ago that I watched him make his way into the world. In a few months I’ll be facing the fourth anniversary of my Fathers death. It feels like it happened only yesterday. I still have a dull ache in my heart that won’t go away.
Maybe I am getting old. Maybe it’s time to start taking it easy. To rest my weary bones. To sit at my window and watch as time passes swiftly by. To embrace age as if it were an old and comfortable friendship.
Well, those thoughts lasted only about five minutes. My Father lived every second of his life like it was his last. He understood how precious life was. It appears that I am my Father’s Son. I believe that life is what we make of it. It’s never too late to go back to school, read a good book, start walking or begin exercise classes. It’s never to late to love, to reach out to others, to pass your knowledge and skills on, and to become a better person. I’m starting to feel a lot better already. I even think that one wrinkle has disappeared. I may still have a few good years left in me after all!. I almost can’t wait for all those grandchildren!
Here’s a little secret just between you and me. I don’t think I’ll ever age gracefully. I intend to kick and scream and fight time until my dying day. I also intend to live and learn and love until my time here is over. I’m reminded of a Dylan Thomas poem which was written for his dying Father. Here is the first stanza.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Old age should burn and rave at close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I believe that we are all not only given the gift of life, but also the responsibility to use every second of it to help, and inspire those around us. I’ve decided that instead of living what time I have left, gracefully, I will begin to live it, gratefully. Take care, and if that AARP card comes in the mail; relax, put it in a drawer, and take a walk. It’s a bright, sunny, beautiful, day.