September 2, 2009

IF YOU'RE LUCKY:

You Get Old: For any man who has led a vibrant, robust life, the ­realities of aging can be humbling. But as the author has discovered, coming to terms with that is one of life’s great empowerments. (Pat Jordan, September 2009, Men's Journal)

You get old, it’s not always about you. You no longer wait for an opening in a conversation to talk about yourself, your dreams, your accomplishments. It becomes second nature to draw other people into talking about their lives. You’re no longer the life of the party, making people laugh. You no longer have that neurotic compulsion to be known. Why should you? You get old, you know yourself.

You get old, you need less. Less food, less booze, less sex, less sleep. One Jim Beam Black after dinner, savored, so that it lasts until you fall asleep.

You get old, you wake at 4 am as if to catch every moment of your fading days. You struggle out of bed, let the dogs out, make coffee, light a cigar, then go out the front door for your newspapers. You sit on the front steps, sipping your coffee, smoking your cigar in the darkness until Jean Pierre, the Haitian paper deliverer, as black as a purple plum, pulls up in his Toyota. He sees you and gets out of the car. “Sorry, cher, da be late today,” he says, handing you the papers. “No problem, Jean Pierre.” [...]

You get old, your dreams constrict. You no longer expect fame and fortune, your face on the cover of Time. You no longer expect to write the Great American Novel, 859 pages. Your writing gets small. Fewer words. But cleaner, you hope. More nuance, less obvious. Subtle, you like to think. Like your life. Small essays about getting old. They please you just as much as if you wrote War and Peace.

You get old, you cry more. Not over your lost dreams, your sins, your old age, your impending death. You cry for others. You cry when Assumpta dies too young, at 30, in Ballykissangel. You cry at the sight of our soldiers in camouflage walking through airports on their way to Iraq. You cry at the sight of abused dogs and cats staring at you from the pages of newspapers. You cry when Betsy tells you she has inoperable cancer and she’ll never see 60.

You cry for everyone but yourself because you have lived a wonderful life, and you wish that every person, every pet, could live such a life too. When you were young, you cried only for yourself.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 2, 2009 7:28 PM
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