Carnett: Age is all it’s cracked up to be
I’m a codger and I know it.
As my sainted father used to advise, when it comes to age-related stuff, you can’t fool Mother Nature. And Mama Naturale has me pegged.
I’m absolutely primeval by the standards I employed when I reached the age of majority in 1966. I considered anyone older than 40 “Methuselated” (a term for ancient persons coined by Daisy Mae –- referring to the biblical Methuselah — in “Li’l Abner”).
Today, at 67, I’m glacial flour.
I’ve already outlived Caligula by 38 years, Errol Flynn by 17, William Shakespeare by 15, and Gen. George S. Patton by seven. Those guys achieved huge notoriety in fewer years than I’ve been alive, and I couldn’t catch them now if I strapped a jetpack to my bum.
I’m now older than my own grandfather was when I was 21 — and, at that time, I considered him a redwood. How could I possibly have become this antediluvian?
Five years ago my 6-year-old granddaughter asked me how old I was.
“Sixty-two,” I said.
“Wow, Grandpa,” she gasped, “and you’re not dead yet?”
I’m old and should be smart — if not smart, at least wise — but therein lies the rub. It turns out I’m neither.
I went to my 50th high school reunion recently and saw friends I hadn’t seen in decades. I quickly noted that those people look old too. What’s up with us? How could we have not seen this coming?
I was under the delusion that the 1960s were all about permanently fixing the “growing old” thing. What happened? Does anyone remember? And that rot about never trusting anyone older than 30. I haven’t been relevant for the combined lifetimes of three German shepherds and a shih tzu.
Recently, I was taking my evening constitutional in our neighborhood. As I walked by the side of the road near the curb, a couple of 11-year-olds approached me from behind on bicycles. One came so close that he nearly brushed me.
“Hey,” he yelled at his buddy on the other bike. “You almost ran me into that old man!”
I was ticked.
“Why ya little twerp!” I wheezed as he rode by. “I’ve got grand kids older than you!”
Crafty rejoinder Jim, but in hindsight it seems you actually made his point.
There was a poster at my high school reunion that contained the photos of 30 or 40 of our classmates who’ve died since we first enrolled as high school freshmen in 1958.
One classmate was killed in an automobile accident during our sophomore year. He was 16. We received word of the accident on a Monday morning, as I recall, and all the girls at school cried. It was sad.
He was the first person I’d ever known to die. Now, at 67, I’m afraid that list is quite lengthy.
I’ve occasionally thought about him over the years and in my mind he always looks the same: black leather jacket, pouty rockstar expression, cool greased-back ducktail. Indestructible.
Unlike most of the rest of us in the class of ’62, he escaped life’s unrelenting hassle of tearing off calendar pages. In our minds he’ll always be 16, forever exempt from the indignity of excess nose and ear hair, and chiseled abs concealed by unsightly layers of adipose.
He didn’t have the opportunity to finish high school or attend college; he never married and had children; and he never attended a grandson’s soccer game or granddaughter’s dance recital.
We survivors may be cursed with rapidly multiplying liver spots, but we’ve also been richly blessed.
He also likely never got around to figuring all this out. Doubtless, he departed the world with unresolved questions about who he was and why he was here. I know octogenarians who still haven’t figured that out.
But aging has its benefits.
The author of the Book of Proverbs — himself a wise man — says so. He labels my gray hair “a crown of glory.”
I’ll take that crown — right now, before male pattern baldness is permitted to steal the final vestiges of my comb-over.
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.