“You’re only as old as you feel.” That saying has been around a lot longer than any of us. It’s a statement of rebellion against time and the effect it has on us all. It’s a refusal to give in. It’s an excuse for not acting our age. And why should we? After all, age is just a number – does it have to be a state of mind?
A few days ago my grandson was being pretty silly, making noises and just generally acting up. I finally looked at him and said, “You’re almost eleven years old. Would you mind acting your age?” Then my mother-in-law, who has little tolerance for anybody under the age of fifty, threw in a few comments of her own. I finally looked at her and said, “Could you try a little harder not to act your age?”
And really, what does that mean – acting your age? Who decided that after a certain number of birthdays, we’re no longer supposed to have fun? With all of the money being spent in this country by people trying to look younger, you’d think a few more would try a little harder to act younger. It’s free, and nothing covers wrinkles like a smile.
One of the highlights of my summer is taking my grandson to a local theme park. We get there at opening time and stay for the fireworks twelve hours later. And we spend the day riding everything from the wildest roller coasters to the bumper cars and merry-go-round. We’re like two kids. Only he is a kid. Me? I’m still in denial.
My doctor would have a fit if he saw some of the things I ride. That’s okay, he probably wouldn’t approve of the corn dogs and cotton candy either. But sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind. And for me, that means sitting in the front seat of the tallest ride in the park with both hands in the air yelling, “Rock and roll!”
I read something not long ago that said “I refuse to tiptoe through life, taking no chances and avoiding all danger, only to arrive safely at death.” I thought that was a pretty strong sentiment, and right along with my line of thinking. Another of my favorites is, “Live healthy, eat right, die anyway.” That pretty much puts things in perspective.
And it’s not that I’ve got anything against healthy living. Quite the contrary. But I think people take this whole concept of aging gracefully to an extreme. Aging gracefully means passively fitting in with all the people who got there before you. It means acting your age. And that’s where I have a problem. See, I don’t mind gray hair as long as it doesn’t clash with my earrings.
To me, one of the neatest things in the world is older people who have forgotten how old they really are. They’re no different than anybody else their age. They wake up in the morning feeling every muscle and joint in their body. They look in the mirror and see a reflection that isn’t quite what it used to be. And more often than not, they have to take a handful of pills before breakfast.
The difference is, they don’t care. Nobody told them they’re too old to enjoy life, and if anybody did they wouldn’t listen. These are the people you see riding tandem bicycles in the evening, golfing on weekday mornings, and dancing when there’s no music. The ones you smile at in spite of yourself, because they seem to have found what we all want – happiness.
I think from the age of about 30 to 42, I allowed myself to fall into that rut of “acting my age.” I didn’t relate well with my daughters or anybody else their age, and I didn’t really care. After all, I was here first. And some day they’d grow up and realize that my generation was right. About what, I’m not sure. I just knew we were right.
I’d listen to top 40 music (I use the term loosely) for ten seconds and shake my head, thinking back to the days of Bob Seger and the Doobie Brothers. Now that was music! I’d look at the piercings and tattoos and roll my eyes in disgust. For my oldest, getting my permission to buy a pager (remember those?) was like asking if she could spend the weekend with her boyfriend in Jamaica. I spent more time answering the question “Why not?” instead of asking the same question myself. And as a result, I was growing old way before my time.
But something happened that made me realize what I’d been missing. My grandson was born. People always told me I was too young to be a grandpa, but I didn’t care. That was my little buddy. And he still is. Now I’ve got a three year-old granddaughter and another one on the way. And I couldn’t be happier.
And the thing I finally learned is that we go through life thinking we’re teaching these kids what they need to know, but really they’re teaching us. They’ve taught me to laugh and play a little more. They’ve taught me to sing a little more. They’ve taught me to use my imagination a little more. They’ve taught me to look the other way a little more. And they’ve taught me to see the magic in life that’s right there in front of us, just waiting to be embraced.
As a result, I’ve found myself feeling and acting just a little younger. Yes, I wake up in the morning feeling every muscle and joint in my body. I look in the mirror and see a reflection that’s not what it used to be. And I have to take a handful of pills before breakfast. I doubt that’ll ever change. But what has changed is the way I let it affect me.
On April 5, my wife and I are going to a rock concert. Bob Seger is in town, and we’re not missing this one. I know at our age we’re supposed to enjoy the ballet and the opera. Or maybe we’re supposed to take in an early movie and get to bed by nine. Or sit around the house watching reruns of Leave It To Beaver. And if that’s your thing, more power to you. We’re going to a concert, sixty miles away, on a weeknight. And we may just get a hotel room and act like a couple of teenagers after the show.
You see, aging is inevitable. It begins the day we’re born and it doesn’t stop until the very end. Our hair will turn gray, our skin will loosen, and our joints will tighten. But growing old is a matter of personal choice. It’s been said that we don’t stop laughing because we grow old – we grow old because we stop laughing.
So here’s my toast for each of you. May you always be older than you feel, and never act as old as you are really are. Over the lips and around the gums, look out belly, here it comes!
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon