CONVERSATIONS I NEVER HAD AT 17

WARNING!! Don’t read this if you are no older than 17, or maybe 40

I am not a fatalist, and I am not trying to be maudlin, and I still view myself as hip and youthful, but when the clock ticked past my 63rd birthday last December, I began considering some things that are just kind of weird. Particularly when you still think that, at least in some ways, you’re 17. Some of these musings have been a little scary and make me feel vulnerable for the first time in my life, while others are just plain ridiculous and amusing.

It kind of started with the realization that my Dad, who was in excellent health, didn’t eat red meat or fried foods, was the first person I knew to consider SPF levels in sun tan lotion, didn’t smoke or drink, and exercised regularly, etc., was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer when he was 68 and was gone at 71. I thought he was good to go for at least 125 years. It got me to thinking about whether my shelf-life will expire when I turn 68 (in just five years) despite the fact that I eat healthy foods, drink only socially (?), don’t smoke, and I am an indoor cycle (spin) instructor.

Then there is the fact of aging out and dying parents. My friends and I are spending a lot of time taking care of our folks, burying our folks, and kind of starting the process of accepting the baton as the incoming older generation. Remember it was kind of fun going to a wedding as a kid. It was more fun in your teens, and even more fun when you and your friends were getting married in your 20’s and we all were kind of the centerpiece of the whole thing. As the decades passed, you found yourself being moved from table to table further and further from the dancefloor and the center of the activity. Kind of like moving down the couch on the Johnny Carson Show. Suddenly, you’re sitting next to the table with the few remaining folks in their 80’s and beyond. I feel our table should now come equipped with a portable defibrillator just in case I need to jump start one of the folks at the next table.

I guess it all came to head over the last two years as we fought through the pandemic only to have my wife’s mother pass away from COVID related issues in a quick and untimely fashion at 84 years of age. This left my wife and her siblings orphans, and with the only surviving parent between us my soon to be 92-year-old mother.

Considering the whole thing I realized that for the past 10 years or so I have been increasingly engaged in conversations, or overhear conversations, the topics of which would have made me run screaming into the night when I was 17. I decided to brainstorm and create a list of these repeating topics. It has been a cathartic experience, and I my wife and I have laughed a lot as I came up with the various items populating the list. Here is what I have come up with so far. I’m sure there are more. As a disclaimer, my wife and I haven’t personally experienced all these things yet, but I figure it’s just a matter of time. So read the list. If you are in my age wheelhouse, I hope you can at least chuckle at some of these things and, no, I won’t be annoyed or disappointed if you need to take a nap or pee before you get to the end of the list. If you are 17, or there abouts, either stop reading now, or perhaps use the list to better inform your understanding of your parents, grandparents, or the path you are treading.

o Balding

o Menopause

o Erectile disfunction

o Prostate exam

o Vaginal dryness

o Boxtox

o Face lifts

o Boob jobs

o Butt lifts

o Every kind of lift

o Knee replacement

o Hip replacement

o Medications of every kind

o The bedroom becoming a place of lotions, potions and machinery

o Everything hurts (even hair and toenails)

o Toenail fungus

o Retirement

o Florida

o Can’t see

o Can’t hear

o Can’t remember

o Used to go out after 9:30pm, and now hoping to be in bed by 9:30pm

o Peeing in the middle of the night

o Being awake in the middle of the night (not for anything good)

o Hair dying

o Aging/dying parents

o Aging/dying friends (the thinning of the herd)

o Grandparenthood

o Cholesterol

o Hypertension

o Being a dinosaur because I’m the only person reading an actual physical newspaper or book on the train

o Carefully reading obituaries to determine why someone passed away and comparing that to your own health and situation

o Sounding like your parents

o Sounding like your grandparents

o Look for your car keys or cell phone when they’re in your left hand

o Look for your glasses when they are on your head

o Repeating yourself

o Repeating yourself (oops!)

o Going to a rock concert and the crowd looks a tad old

o Walking into room and not remembering why you went in there

o Being too hot

o Being too cold

o Being too hot and cold at the same time

o Night sweats

o Scrolling down to the year of your birth on a website and needing a lunch break and/or nap before you get there

o Hair sprouting from ears, nose, upper lip and back (like an ugly second puberty)

o Funerals, wakes and shiva calls

o Construction leading to the demise of your childhood sleigh riding hill or ice-skating pond

o Your kids speaking to you in that patronizing you’re an idiot tone you used to use with your own parents

o Realizing how precious time is

o Thinking you’re still cool, but the World giving you signals that it has a different view

o Watching all your music idols die

o Watching sports and realizing how much older you are than the athletes, and their parents

o Realizing so much that seemed important is bullshit, and that the little things are so important

o Watching friends and family lose youthful passion

o Becoming jaded

o Struggling to remember words and names

o Forgetting your train of thought in mid-sentence

Well, there it is. I guess it’s true that no one gets out of here alive so, if you can, try to laugh (especially at your own ridiculousness), find some love, find a hand to hold. Forgive yourself. Take it easy on yourself remember, you’re only human. Become your own caretaker. Stop telling yourself what you can’t do and tell yourself what you can do. Find some joy and light, even when it’s dark. Finally, remember the wise words of Billy Joel, “they say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times we’ll ever know”. Peace.

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