Aging is an interesting process with a lot of downsides but also a number of upsides. I’d always figured on a depressing descent into my dotage attended by a gradual casting off of everything that mattered to me; from general good health to occasional bad behaviour. We all know the grim stuff: from losing life-long friends and short-term memory to gaining weight and compiling prescription lists. The onset of Alzheimer’s makes it easier to forget that and move right into the good news. The most obvious being the opportunity to reflect on our legacy.
I look at this way: most of my life I was wrapped up in my own ego and focused on “my” life and my world. “My” family, “my” job, “my” view of the situation in Antarctica.
It was like being the only person on the field in a stadium. Look at me doing amazing things; turning cartwheels and jumping hurdles to the applause of the excited and growing crowd in the stands. One made up of friends, family and fellow workers: most of them much younger than me. Now, finally, I’ve performed my last trick and it’s their turn. I climb the stadium stairs to take my place overlooking the field of play as they all rush on to display what they’ve learned; including what they’ve learned from me. It’s a delicious moment, this passing of the baton and the contemplation of many years of seeing my mentoring pay off.
But it’s not the best thing.
The best thing about growing old … and you have to be male to enjoy it, is the addition of “Sir” to the vocabularies of those who come into your company. None of us ever imagines ourselves to have reached the “sir” stage. Sir is for aged and knighted rock stars. Besides, a lot of us are still doing un-sir-like things. Skydiving or riding motorcycles or planning trips to Bali aboard small sailboats. Not to complain, though, because hearing “sir” is assurance that everything is going to be alright. That God is in his heaven and on our side.
Let me give you an example: I was riding my Ducati far too quickly along some wonderful roads in Southern California when flashing lights appeared behind me. Apparently they had escaped my attention for some time.
I was in a $300 ticket situation; assumed by the officer in pursuit to be a young punk blessed with too much money and running from the law. It was time to pay my dues. I pulled over, put down the side stand and took off my helmet. As the man in blue approached I turned my weary look and grey hair respectively toward him.
He said: “going a little quickly,aren’t we?” And then he added “sir.”
I knew then that sixty-eight years had earned me my get-out-of-jail card and that I I was going to be treated civilly and sent on my way with my licence unblemished and my wallet intact. He was thinking “how much of a problem can I be in the time I have left?”
I hope he stays tuned.