Our own increasing age, and also the ages of our children, are always accompanied by a yearly crop of surprises. Your first child is born, and you've never taken care of a baby before. As soon as you get used to the baby's needs, the baby turns one year old, and you've never had a one year old before. Then two, and three, etc. Some of the leaps are more consequential than the others. The leap from six to seven brings a whole new perspective for the child, and a whole new set of challenges for the parents. The leap from twelve to thirteen is another big one. Every year you are faced with a new child, and a new set of problems that must be solved.
This experience is mirrored in our own lives. We turn thirty-seven, and we've never been thirty-seven before. Things are changing, slowly at first. Geezers can all look back and see where the major changes in perspective took place. The professionals recognize more than one “adolescence.” Being a teenager can be difficult, but the worst ones hit us at age twenty-seven and again around age forty.
We don't get old all at once. It comes one year at a time. Then, around age seventy, everyone's body announces to its owner that this entire Merry-Go-Round has become tiresome, and it's about time to shut the whole enterprise down. Again, not all at once, but everything begins to degrade at an accelerated pace.
I enjoy reading novels that are variously described as “noir” of some kind, “hard-boiled,” or simply “detective” or “crime” fiction. My own literary-criticism suspicion is that they are not really novels at all, because there is a major element missing: the psychological development of a protagonist.
Long ago I read some newspaper writer describe her attempt to break into the world of fiction. She wrote a novel, which is as different from newspaper writing (or blog writing) as Mars is different from Neptune. She asked a professor type friend of hers to read it and tell her what he thought. “It reads fine,” he told her, “but nothing happens.” She was confused, so the professor broke it down. “Yes,” he said, “there are characters, and there is a story and a plot, and there is action, but nothing happens TO the characters. None of the characters change. They don't develop.” She saw the light and gave up fiction writing.
Anyway, I'm reading my way through all fourteen of Philip Kerr's “Bernie Gunther” novels, for the second time. They are terrific, if you like stuff like Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, George V. Higgins, and Charles Willeford. On the subject of encroaching old age, Bernie, approaching sixty, describes getting up in the morning like this: “it always feels like someone must have stolen my real body in the night and replaced it with my father's.”
I have been using a similar formula for years. I tell people that I wake up feeling fine, pain free, arising easily, gliding smoothly to the bathroom, but then encountering the shock. When I first look into the mirror, I look a bit confused and wonder what my father is doing here. Him being dead and all.
Hopefully you all paid careful attention to the above comments about turning seventy. You WILL be getting stiff and frail; you WILL be spending more time with medical and dental professionals; all of your individual systems WILL be failing; you WILL be investing more money in the enterprise of remaining alive. Perhaps a lot more money. Everyone is different. Experience varies.
After seventy, the going gets rough. We reach what I sometimes think of as, “the place of bad roads.” The way becomes more difficult, and progress slows. The road, of course, has an end.
Our end may be easy, or terrible, and comfort is not awarded on the basis of merit. We are, each of us, on our own.
Hey! I don't make the rules. I just wake up in the morning and find the game and the rules by which we all live. As long as you can hear the man say, “play ball!” you're in the game. Just put the glove on your left hand and take your position. You made it, again. Make the most of it!