There are many things that let you know you are becoming old. Receiving regular mailings from AARP asking you to join is one of the more obvious, of course. But there are other, more subtle things. For instance, my wife teaches third grade. She has been in her school so long now that she occasionally gets a student who is the offspring of a former student of hers. Admittedly disconcerting. Even worse is getting the grandchild of a former student.
Of course, worse than that, is realizing that one’s own children have grown up. And it’s cumulative: first they start driving, then they leave high school and then they start college and you realize that your so recent memories of life in the dorms are now their current reality. Or you meet up with someone you went to college with and their son or daughter is now the same age they were when you first met them.
Recently I went to my eye doctor for my annual checkup and to order a new set of glasses. My regular optometrist no longer there. He has retired. He didn’t seem that old to me. But then I thought about it: my oldest daughter is twenty-one. She had not even been born when I first started going to him for my glasses.
The same thing is likely becoming true of my allergist and dentist. I must admit that they are both looking rather gray and wrinkly.
Most scary: when I look in the mirror I occasionally see that my father is looking back at me. How did that old man manage to sneak into my mirror?
When did this happen, me becoming old? Just last month I was graduating from high school. Only a week ago, people asked me what I was going to be when I grew up. And I’m still not sure.
When I walk my youngest, mentally-ill daughter to her classroom on the high school campus for the occasional test and I see all the children milling about, it all seems so familiar and normal—until a teenager asks me a question because he mistook me for one of the faculty.
And then I look at my youngest daughter and realize that at least chronologically she’s no longer even a child. She's eighteen. She’s a voter!
Where did the young me go? How did I get to this place? Is there some way to make it stop? Can I go back? I don’t think I really want to be this old.
My eldest daughter complains about being an adult. She tells me that she is really only five. I’d like to believe her. But then she drives away and goes off to college in another state.
“How will I know when I’m all grown up?”
It seems like only yesterday that I asked that question. I’m not sure I have an answer yet.
Perhaps the fact that I can now get the senior discount at restaurants and at the movies means I’m grown up now? I don’t want to admit to being so elderly, but then again, how can I pass up the savings?
And why don’t they card me to make sure I’m old enough?
Does that mean I look as old as I am?
But, but…my hair is not gray. On top of my head. So, okay, my beard is gray, but if I shaved it off you’d never know I was old enough to have gray fur anywhere. And my wrinkles are hardly noticeable—unless I smile...or frown…or talk. Moving your face is overrated, anyhow.
How can I be old? I still walk more than five miles a day. Nothing is creaking. I didn’t feel tired after a recent hike around Vasquez Rocks here in southern California. Nothing aches. No back problems. Good, if wrinkled, knees.
So how can I be old?
Okay. I have to take high blood pressure medicine. And yes, by the end of the day my ankles have swollen a bit—just a minor side effect of the medication according to my doctor.
Cars manufactured the year I was born are now considered classics.
Lunch pails and toys from my childhood go for premium prices on E-bay. They’re worth more now than when they were new.
So am I worth more now? Am I valuable antique?
The music I grew up with is on the oldies station. My children don’t know what a record album is: “I didn’t know they made CDs that big! Why is it black? What are these grooves?” My only comfort is that their children will think CDs are just as weird.
Do you suppose I’d stop getting those disquieting ads from the AARP if I were to go ahead and join? Not that I’m a retired person, or plan to be one any time soon. Writers never retire, you know. But look at all the discounts I can get!