Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The View from 68

In a couple of weeks I will achieve one of those milestones of advancing age, attendance at my 50th high school reunion.

How do I feel about that?

Let me quote the great critic Malcolm Cowley, who, on his 88th birthday, said: "I feel all of eighteen . . . with something wrong."

Amen. In the last decade surgeons have implanted so much metal in my body that I'm probably worth more at the scrap yard than at the bank. Luckily, I've avoided a heart attack so far, and I'm able to walk more than a few yards again, thanks to recent spinal surgery. Things could be worse, a lot worse.

I could be as dispirited as the artist Maurice Sendak, who not long ago underwent only a triple bypass when most heart patients have quadruples. "Makes me feel a failure," he told the New York Times yesterday.

You know you're old when you no longer drop subtle hints about your net worth but issue frank revelations of the expense and risk of your medical procedures. When our wives pull out photos of the grandchildren, we husbands pull up trouser legs to show off our knee replacement scars. (A total replacement trumps a partial one.)

Is it any wonder that our children come up with convenient excuses to go into another room when this happens?

They're not really finding us tiresome, as they think. Looking at us makes them dread, deep down, their own decline. This is why the naive little ignoramuses come up with cheery words about An Active Golden Age when they haven't the slightest idea of what really goes on. Talk about whistling past the graveyard!

For the most part, we geezers accept the consequences. Some of us don't. I have friends who horrify their wives with frantic "Bucket List" antics, trying to retain their youthful brio while their bodies are collapsing all around them. They think they're making the most of the time remaining to them, but, really, they're pitiable in their efforts to seem young while the rest of us know better.

I'm not looking forward to that reunion with any relish. All those wattles and wrinkles and sags and bags and limps and stoops will only remind me of my own. But my wife and some of my friends are making me go, if only to forestall reclusehood.

This is not to say that advancing age always brings increasing gloom. Another grandchild was born this week, and that is a real joy.

Now I have to decide whether to put down a few thousand dollars for a trip (cruise and guided tour, not independent backpacking) to Alaska next May. Will I still be ambulatory eight months hence? Or should I simply live day to day and hope for the best?

Ah . . . I'll go for it. What's the alternative?


  1. You are such a silly old man!

  2. Henry,
    I went to my 50th high school reunion about six months ago and it was a joy! It was my duty to bring our Roosevelt High School orchestra teacher to the gathering. He's 93 and though he couldn't remember anyone (we do change between 17 and 68!), all the alums remembered him. One of the funniest fellows in the class, though no longer the slim dude he once was, still could amuse. A retired urologist, his license plate read, "DR P P."
    Have a great time at your ETHS reunion and be sure to tell us all about it!

  3. Thanks, Marshall. Sounds as if your geezerhood is bearable.

    As for Anonymous: Clueless whippersnapper, are you now?

  4. I knew an urologist whose license plate read "EZ WHIZ."

    Urologists are such cutups.

  5. Go for the Cruise / Tour. You'll love it! And you should be able to handle it physically.

    We've been to Alaska on a cruise and they pamper you. My "lady friend" went on the expeditions into the wilds and reports that any laggards who couldn't keep up were fed to the whales.


    Mike P.

    PS: Our ETHS class is gearing up for its 45th reunion this year. I went to 30 or 35 (can't remember exactly - comes with age) with the same trepidation that you have, and loved it.

  6. So, what's the problem with reclusehood?

  7. Reclusehood turns one into a misanthrope, if one isn't already. I'm not quite ready to hang out the "People Are No Damn Good" sign just yet.