On Getting Old
I got old on Thursday.
Not last Thursday.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t a Thursday. I don’t remember, I’m old now.
But it happened that way.
In a moment. An instant.
I was getting in my car to go to work. As I often do, I connected my phone to listen to my precious music on the way.
The music filled the car. And it was fine at first.
But then it wasn’t.
I don’t mean the music. I mean the moment.
Suddenly, in that moment, the music seemed old.
I should mention that it was. 35 years or so.
It had just never sounded old to me before. It was the music I had fallen in love with in middle school (that’s what we old folks used to call “Jr. High School,” kids).
Played on the cassette player in my first car. [See, there were these cassette tapes, and sometimes something would get mucked up and tape guts would get into your player and cause a ton of headache. You might have to get tweezers and carefully pull the guts out of your machine, stick your finger in one of the tape spools, and manually rewind the tape a little and hope it would still play and preferably not spill its guts all over your tape deck again. (We called ’em “tape decks.”)]
The music that had faithfully shepherded me through adolence, college, my first years of marriage, graduate school, raising my three babies.
It soothed, comforted, and empowered me through hours and days in my room, as I lay in bed on occasions where I could do little else but listen, praying that the MS ravaging my body would relent and leave me with any of my faculties intact. Or at least that I’d have the energy to get up and not let The Simpsons Movie play for a fourth time in the DVD player. (Remember those?)
I don’t need to explain. You have a soundtrack to your life too. And you know what it means to you.
So I knew my music was old.
But that day, all at once, it sounded its age. And at that moment, for the first time in my life, I felt my own.
Which is to say I experienced myself as the person I saw people my age as being when I was young, when that music — and everything else in the world — was new.
And it scared me. How the days are flying, how quickly I’ll be looking far into the past as I re-read this post and reflect on this moment. How I won’t actually be able to read this post at all because I won’t remember where I left my glasses.
Our girls are gone and our house is so often empty.
I’ve lost my hair and my beard is turning gray.
The lines on my face (and the hair in my ears — what?) surprise me every morning.
And for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to hear it, a ruthless hum of dread. It’s faint, but it daily grows a tiny bit louder.
Seriously, I’m done writing now. I haven’t resolved this yet. I haven’t wrapped it all up neatly into an object lesson as I am wont to do. (I’m getting older, so I say things like, “as I am wont to do”). I’m sure one day I’ll write about all the amazing wisdom I gained at this time in my life. Because I am wont to do that.
But right now, to be honest, I’m a little scared. Not of dying but of getting older. And of living to an age where I say things like, “I hope I live until next week because the new Wonder Woman movie comes out Friday.”
After all this is brand new to me, on account of having just gotten old on Thursday.