In a little more than a month, I’ll begin the swan song of my fifth decade on earth, my last year to get my act together before I turn 60 and enter what I envision to be the threshold of Old Age.
Actually, I used to consider 50 as the threshold of Old Age, but then revised my perspective to 55 when I crossed that doorway. Later, when I hit 55, I revised it again to 60.
And now it looks like I’ll have to revise it again, like a failed Soviet Five Year Plan, to 65.
I mean, let’s be realistic here. The likelihood that I’ll accomplish much of anything in the next 365-day interval that I wasn’t able to accomplish over the last 58 is virtually nil.
Take worldwide travel, for instance. Haven’t managed to leave the States once since our Bahamas honeymoon in ’82. My dreams of exploring Europe on foot, Greece by boat or India by rail never seemed to materialize. Although we did make it to Indiana several times. Mostly for the cheap gas. And Class C firecrackers.
Or how about retirement planning? I should have been setting aside enough money to live comfortably after retiring at age 65. Instead I foolishly squandered it on education and health care. Now I’m just hoping to earn enough to reach 65.
But that’s OK.
Waiting for your ship to come in is unrealistic. Because sometimes your ship doesn’t come in. Because sometimes ship happens.
So rather than obsess over the leaky bucket I’ve been using for my bucket list, I’ve chosen to focus future endeavors elsewhere. Instead of trying to bag a bunch of late-life experiences like some kind of big game hunter on a three-day safari, I’ve decided to concentrate on something a little more sensible.
On something a little more meaningful. On something I like to call Aging With Dignity.
Instead of wasting Old Age trying to accomplish the un-accomplishable, I’ve opted to maximize my efforts on avoidance. By avoiding all of those aggravating and annoying habits that make Old Agers so, well, aggravating and annoying.
You know what I’m talking here. Don’t you pretend you don’t.
Habits like constantly griping about one’s aches and pains or, even worse, one’s bowel movements.
Habits like the inability to grasp even the simplest current technology.
Habits like going to bed early and eating cautiously.
Habits like incessantly repeating oneself.
Unfortunately, my efforts so far have been something less than dignifying:
Try as I might, I find myself constantly whining about my health. When friends ask me, “Hey, how you feeling?” rather than just give the standard response of “Fine,” I find myself giving a detailed account of whichever of my bodily systems is currently offline.
Even worse, I write columns about my health. And they actually pay me to do it. At least I haven’t written anything about my bowel movements yet, though there’s always next year.
Ow! My hand hurts from all this typing. I think I aggravated a tendon.
Oh, the humanity!
I used to regularly stay up until 1 a.m. and get up at 7 a.m.
Now, if I stay up past 11 p.m. I’m dead the next day. If I stay up past midnight, I’m dead for two days.
And if I stay up past 1 a.m., I probably ain’t getting up at all tomorrow.
People tell me I’m starting to repeat myself a lot.
My parents used to drive me nuts with their inability to program a VCR, or sign on to the internet. Or figuring out what to do on the internet once they finally did sign on. And now I’m the same way with mobile apps and social media.
Too dumb to understand most of ‘em. And as for the rest, too anti-social for Facebook, too boring for YouTube, and too cynical to waste my time on 140-character trivialities.
Not surprisingly, I’m no longer very current on popular culture. As far as I can tell, my grasp ended sometime in the early 2000s, right after U2’s “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” album came out.
Album? Er, I mean CD. Or DVD.
Or whatever they were called back then. My grasp of television is even worse.
I generally don’t watch the networks on account that they’re stupid and lame. Most of the shows I do watch involve either men chasing pucks or balls, or men searching for gold, or men forging swords, or old movies.
And about the only old movies that interest me start with “John” and end with “Wayne.” Oh, and people tell me I’m starting to repeat myself a lot. I find myself more and more irritated by millennials, what with their obsession on tolerance and social justice and acceptance and all that stuff I used to believe in before I got old and cynical.
Where’d they learn all that crap, anyway? I used to ski in the winter, or at least take the kids sledding. I used to shovel the driveway wearing nothing but a sweatshirt and shorts (which I now realize is not a good look for overweight males).
I used to turn down the thermostat to the point where my wife threatened divorce.
Because I used to always stay warm in the winter. Well, not anymore.
Now I’m freezing anytime the thermometer dips below 40 degrees.
And all the sweaters, gloves and ski caps in the world don’t seem to make me feel any warmer. I used to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
Pizza at 2 a.m.? No problem.
Hot sauce on everything? Definitely.
Oorah, baby. Well, those days are definitely over. Though again, I’d just as soon not write my bowel habits.
Finally, and I find this hard to believe, but people tell me I’m starting to repeat myself a lot.
• Bill Wimbiscus, former reporter and editor for The Herald-News, has lived in Joliet for 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.