I am 47 and don’t feel particularly old…..unless I have to read something…….or look in the mirror……or get up and run, God forbid. I was an athlete in my younger days, albeit a large guy, and did well enough to play college football. I was no star, but I was very flexible, somewhat agile, pretty strong, and could see very well. What happened? Who is this older guy I see in the mirror each day………….after I put on my stinkin’ glasses? Until then, it could just be a blurry poster of bigfoot or a silverback gorilla. Oh, didn’t I mention the increase in body hair?
Several years ago, I was with my oldest son, 13 or 14 at the time, at our local fitness center and he wanted to play basketball in a pickup game. He is very tall and loved basketball. I enjoyed watching him play, so I was glad to oblige. The mistake I made was walking onto the court with him. They asked me to play also, since the addition of only one would make the teams uneven. He gave me that “Please Dad?” look and being a man, I couldn’t refuse that challenge. I WAS (key word= PAST tense) an athlete back in the day, after all.
There were only a couple of issues. One, I had never been a basketball player, ever. When they begged me to play in Junior High because I was tall,. I agreed to try for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, they heartily agreed to my departure and apologized for their poor judgement…..and all the laughter. Two, football was my game and I was a lineman, so the extent of my running was limited to short bursts of speed during plays, the mandated sprints after practice, and conditioning during off season. Once my college days were over and no coaches were yelling at me, I had not intentionally run anywhere except the kitchen or the bathroom in 20 years. Suffice it to say I was out of shape.
Well, you can imagine. I made it about 5 minutes before I
collapsed had to sit down, and that is being generous. I had played basketball in the driveway with my son but that was shooting baskets and retrieving missed shots, which I complained about if I had to run too far or bend over to get the ball. Running nonstop from end to end of a full sized court is not intended for ex-linemen who are 50 pounds heavier than their playing weight 20 years ago. After the minister and the paramedics left and I sucked all the oxygen from the tank, I politely excused myself, crawled off the court, and vowed never to return. Not a hard promise to keep. I started walking instead to get back in shape, slowly, in well populated areas with water and oxygen nearby. I usually carried a sandwich to hold me over till I got back home.
When I was 42 I went to the opthalmologist for the first time in years. I had noticed I couldn’t read anything small, especially if the light was poor. I was getting concerned but was relieved when he told me I had 20/20 vision. “But why can’t I see anything small?” , I asked.
“How old are you?”
“Welcome to the club. Your vision gets worse after 40. Go buy some reading glasses”
“That;s it? No prescription”.
“No, just part of aging”
I was devastated. Only 42, I had entered the era of aging? I had seen my dad wearing his “half-glasses” on the end of his nose and teased him mercilessly. Now it was my turn? If I only knew the half of it. I went to Wal-Mart and sheepishly bought some ever so fashionable $10.00 reading glasses. To show my ignorance, I only bought one pair. Now I buy the triple packs and if they are on sale I get two boxes so at any time I have access to one of 6 pairs because Heaven knows when you wont have that million candlepower spotlight handy for casual reading. Just a tip, keep a spray bottle handy to douse the flames when the book ignites.
One of the lowest points came when I was attending a conference and the sessions were held in a dimly let auditorium. To read the conference agenda and take notes I had to wear my reading glasses all day, a first for me. I may as well have poured acid in my eyes. I could read nothing the rest of the day. I could have been 3 feet from the sun and there wouldn’t be enough light for me to read anything smaller than a stop sign. I went to dinner that night after an afternoon of sightseeing and photography.That’s interesting when you can’t see, by the way. The restaurant had very dim lighting. I COULD NOT READ THE MENU! I moved it near any light I could find. I used my cell phone to shine a light on it Nothing. Believe it or not, I took my camera, photographed each page of the menu with a flash and used the zoom feature to scroll through the choices. The worst part was I still needed MY GLASSES to do that! Very sad. Now, reading glasses are present everywhere I go. I can’t read the computer screen, a bill, a menu, or anything smaller than the large print Reader’s Digest, which makes me feel so young, along with the laughter from my younger co-workers anytime they see me in my glasses.
Although I think of myself as a mentally young guy at 47, my body says otherwise. Diagnosed with cancer last year, I have been reminded of mortality and the preciousness of time over and over again. I lost ALL my hair, which is really kind of odd when you are part gorilla, but hey, who’s complaining. No shaving for 5 moths was great! But now? Geez! I have experienced hair re-growth unheard of among humans unless afflicted with Hypertrichosis, the Wolfman disease. Except for my head, of course. Why would THAT happen? Surgery on my leg forced me to use urinary catheters, bandadges, crutches, a walker, and a cane. No more basketball for me. DANG! Chemo induced changes in various physical functions are being discovered on a regular basis. My 40’s have been a blast! I can’t wait to see what my 50’s bring. Maybe diapers and a nice soft room? I hope not. I have lost 50 pounds and am looking forward to getting back to life once I recover fully from surgery. So, here I lay, with my leg in the air. A 47 year old, semi-bald, silverback gorilla, wearing reading glasses as I type this bit of happiness and sarcasm. You know what you would see if I didn’t wear them? Me neither.