First Person / Yes, I'm old: But I'm getting used to it; in fact, it's pretty nice
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A red-headed, teenage skateboarder recently told me that, in his opinion, "Skateboards make old people crazy."
He softened his comment slightly when he said, "But not you. You're old but you ain't crazy ... yet."
So I'm old, eh? It must really show if a 14-year-old kid can spot it curbside.
I've resolved not to dwell on the subject, but just a few months ago, my grandsons brought up the challenge of fitting 80 lighted candles on my birthday cake. It turned into a Sunday dinner geometry problem that confounded the entire family. The 23-year-old solved it.
I feel like Old Age has finally caught-up with me near the end of a long race and he and I have decided to jog the last mile or so together. He's not going to sprint in, and neither am I. There's too much to see. Too much to hear. To much to talk about.
It took a while to get used to retirement's idleness ... "the unprogrammed lifestyle."
It would have been much easier on my wife Janny if I had become a golf fanatic or a Mr. Fix-it. Perhaps being a car buff would have been good.
But I never found such a new and rewarding crusade. Consequently, I remain faithful to the same diversions I've enjoyed since 60 closed in on me: reading, music, writing and politics.
Perhaps it's best that I have no serious leisure commitments for I do occasionally lose track of things. I'm frequently stumped by our Zip code or a familiar neighbor's last name. Our new street address is often missing from my brain and watching "Jeopardy" has become 30 minutes of Chinese water torture. Still, I press on, confident that it's only the minutiae that's fading.
When I retired, I became my own daytime music program director. Seeking to satisfy Janny's tastes as well as my own, I adopted a sort of condominium Muzak policy of something semi-classical and sorta nifty for everyone. I failed badly.
Then, with a small speaker in my den, I allowed the spirit of each morning to make the music decisions for me alone. I could do Irish tunes for two hours or Chopin or Bach or Mozart. At times, the U.S. Marine Corps Marching Band would pass in review. And, to my surprise, bluegrass moved into my quiet hours as I enjoyed the sounds of banjos, fiddles and steel guitar. "Oh, blue moon of Kentucky keep on a shinin' ..."
They told me in the hospital that the elderly often come to crave rich foods and big dinners. So what happened to me? All I seem to crave is ice-cold orange sections and bananas. Peaches and grapes, too.
And then there's my current love affair with sourdough bread. My preferred pickles have become Claussen's crispy, refrigerated dills.
I'd also like to know why I still must have banana Popsicles, just like those at "Red" Meister's Corner Deli in Avalon when I was growing up. Will my coffee always remain a dark-roasted blend? And is it sinful for me, after dinner, to add a jigger of Brandy to my second cup?
I don't think I have ever enjoyed the sweet, sharp, sour, biting tastes of ordinary foods as much as I do today. Sometimes I feel like I might want to drink vinegar.
One aspect of old age for which I was totally unprepared was the free time to just think. A CD featuring the Washington Cathedral Boys Choir can hold me at peace for an hour and transport me hundreds of miles away, back to the chancel of my father's church on the streetcar line north of Pittsburgh.
It's a Sunday morning in Advent and I am a choirboy again, singing the Magnificat. As pure as the words were then, they are just as pure today. I know them by heart and I think about them; I wonder and I dream and I sing. And, remember.
When H. W. Longfellow wrote that "the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts," he was referring to the "blessed little barefoot boy." But, really, how much longer are the deep, sweet thoughts of the idle elderly?
This past January, I especially noticed the grey/brown earth tones that accompany a central Florida Winter. Exploring the countryside and heading toward the Gulf of Mexico on two-lane roads is best accomplished aimlessly. Janny and I just sort of bob along, calling attention to white fences, red barns and princely horses. Do they also appreciate the advantages of no snow?
Without morning alarm clocks in my life, my day often lasts until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. After the emails to friends and associates; after the final edition of ESPN "Sports Center" and a few more pages of whatever I'm reading, I call it "a wrap" and head for bed.
Then, the toasty-orange sunrise is upon us, both newspapers have arrived and the morning's striders are heel-toeing it over to Lake Miona. The old Square at Spanish Springs is coming alive and later today dozens of joyous line dancers will perform.
Oh, Happy Day!
First Published June 30, 2012 12:00 am