My age is just a number, a big one

According to the calendar and the inerrant rules of mathematics, come Sunday, July 13, I reach the milestone of senior citizenry.

I know, I find it hard to believe, too. But the numbers don’t lie, and based on my limited mathematical ability subtracting 1949 from 2014 equals 65. Run that through a calculator if you wish, but I think it’s accurate.

The conclusion is supported by the stiffness in my neck, the frequent pain in my lower back and the creaking sound from my right knee that resembles a rusty door hinge more than cartilage and bone.

And then there is the surprise I receive every morning as I look into the mirror and see someone who bears a startling resemblance to my dad looking back at me. When did my hair turn that distinguished shade of gray? And why has more of my forehead become visible over the last few years?

As if the arithmetic and the physical evidence were not enough, I have been receiving almost daily reminders for several months now that I am about to step into the role of senior citizen with all the honors and privileges that distinction holds. Insurance companies bombard me with recommendations that I should seek their advice as soon as possible so they can help me choose the best policy with which to augment whatever Medicare has to offer. My recycle bin overfloweth.

I’ve noticed lately, too, that young women now open doors for me and smile sweetly as I dodder through, trying not to allow curmudgeonry to overshadow their random act of kindness for the day. I suppose I remind them of their fathers, well, maybe grandfathers. It’s a cruel assault on my ego.

Just this week I committed myself to a daily walk, 25 minutes of brisk pacing around the neighborhood during which I encounter folks well into their senior years plodding along, keeping the blood flowing, the joints working and their fantasies of maintaining some semblance of vim and vigor intact. I harbor no such illusions. My daughter and son-in-law shamed me into taking up walking. We’ll see where it goes.

Pat asks me occasionally when I plan to retire. The answer is simple. I don’t. I can’t imagine not having interviews to do, stories to write, farms to bounce around in pickup trucks as I watch crops transform from seed to sprout to bloom to harvest.

I can’t fathom days on end with daytime television and cribbage games. I like to work. I like the people I get to visit.

For now, as I stare into the cold abyss of approaching old age, I wonder where all those years went. I used to think 65 was old—time to retire, putter around the garden trimming the rose bushes and refilling the bird feeders. I’m not that old yet.

In fact, despite the creaking joints, the graying and thinning hair, the frequent reminders that I am now entitled to senior discounts for airline tickets and fishing licenses, a small but persistent voice inside my head tries to convince me that, at least in my own psyche, I remain a 12-year old boy wondering what I’ll do when I grow up.

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