Yesterday we had a garage sale, more to show solidarity with the neighborhood than out of the love for folks who frequent these events. It was kind of fun, bartering over something worth a quarter takes me back to shooting 9-ball at a military pool hall for a dollar a rack. The event also reminded me of the benefits of aging that often go unrecognized. This week I go under the knife again for the 10th time in my lifetime, this time to repair the shoulder that I sacrificed to the God of stupidity when I tangled with a dog blanket on a slick vinyl floor. Rather than mope around, damning my bad luck, I decided to take stock of the good things inherent to being around to meet a new surgical team. Here are a few things the garage sale and the prospects of the knife have taught me.
First is associations. Rather than deal with insufferable folks because of professional circumstances, I get to choose who I hang with for extended visits. This from a individual whose career path forced associations with most unsavory folks as a matter of course. Your self esteem is a reflection of those you associate with and I am proud of my friends. Next up has to do with brain power. Your vocabulary actually increases during the golden years, a necessity with all the techno-speak we are forced to endure. Your ability to manage this vocabulary is the result of increases in actual neurons in our brains. Young folks think our brains are draining down our necks, so don’t let them in on this secret. We tend to hide our mental gains from them, less we threaten their fragile protected egos. The golden years are about establishing new and personal priorities. This alone is worth the price of admission into the old dude category. The trappings of today’s culture, cars, flashy clothes and such matter to us far less than the person behind all this stuff. Emotionally, we have gained immeasurably. We shed the image armor in favor of tears when the dog dies or a child is successful or at the sight of a beautiful sunset or sunrise. Speaking of children, we now understand Gore Vidal when he advises we skip having children and go straight to grand-children. Why are they so different than our children? Who knows and who cares, we just love them differently.
Our coping skills are refined. We accept the inevitability of death of all things important. We’re not wandering aimlessly, rather able to conjure up a mental road map, based on experience, for most situations in life from the catalogue of such maps in our brains. We have experienced many things in life, good and bad, and are able to lean on this experience when new problems arise. An example of this is flying an airplane. This pastime places great emphasis on experience behind the yoke and rewards us with a safer and more enjoyable flight each time the wheels leave the ground. We catch fewer colds (true!), enjoy guaranteed income (for most of us that have earned this perk), gamble smarter in life and at the casino, and have more mental endurance than at any time in our lives. We expend our resources in time and materially with a focus on improving the existence of those around us (volunteering, like ringing the bell at Christmas) and revel in the warmth of those efforts when we are successful.
This week, I will drag out one of those roadmaps I mentioned, greet the surgical team with a smile and thank them for rebuilding a shoulder that I am going to need for hopefully quite awhile longer, confident they will work their magic. If the pain isn’t prohibitive, I’ll attend the retirement festivities of my long time family physician who has kept me alive to see him finally decide to give up his practice, all while I am healthy enough to smile, laugh and embrace life. I am now offering him advice rather than the other way around!
Aging ain’t all bad, rather it is an opportunity. Now grab this beautiful spring day by the tail and give it a shake. We have far more to smile about than we might imagine…..
Have a great week!