My earliest perception of being older occurred when I decided to take the big step, something I had put off for months: asking for the senior discount when buying a ticket at the Regal Cineplex in Union Square. I anticipated that the agent would be incredulous at my claim and demand proof off my bona fides. When this did not happen and the agent just charged the lower price, I felt discombobulated. Could he not see what I see when I look in the bathroom mirror? A frisky colt, wizened but certainly no geezer. Was this clerk playing mind games with me? How dare he! But, wait, I was the one asking for the discount. Age had begun screwing with my head.
I used to be quite adventurous, flirting with danger now and again: rock climbing with my college buds, 100-mile bike rides, backpacking through Eastern Europe. I thought of this when downing, in one swallow, my usual complement of 15 pills during lunch. I was alone in the house and this jarring, cockamamie thought rocked my brain: what if I choke and die right there on the spot. Taking pills, I suddenly realized, was now the most dangerous activity in my life. Perhaps older age was the new adventure?
Lately, I could not help but notice that I was more avidly reading the Times obituaries, particularly the ones for people in their eighties and older. I experienced joy that if they could live that long, damn, so could I. The obits of those who died younger of a tragic illness or unfortunate event held no interest for me other than being a way to congratulate myself for living so long.
The benefits of older age extend to the relationship with my wife. When she asks me, somewhat irritated, to do something she has asked me to do a few times before, I can meekly apologize that my short-term memory just isn’t what it used to be. She loves soft lighting, hating the electromagnetic fields generated by artificial illumination, and often implores me to lower a few of the lights. I gently remind her of my cataracts (unchanged for decades) and how every little bit of light helps. In these instances, I am comfortable enough with her responses, mostly shrugging her shoulders, looking at me with a scent of pity, and then going about her business. Ah, marital bliss!
In my younger days, I was not much into material things and rarely got attached to any particular object. But, now, I have found something which has become my Holy Grail. I treasure it beyond all reason, live in mortal fear of losing it, and guard it with my life. It is my half-price, senior MetroCard with my picture on it. Though an atheist, even in a foxhole, I feel blessed by some unknown force in the universe every time I use it. Each swipe is a delight.
I must admit to disappointment that older age has not produced any epiphanies, any aha moments about the meaning of life. I continue to be astounded that one day I will not exist. That seems like a totally bogus thought to me. In the meantime, all I can do is appreciate that every morning the Times is waiting on my doorstep and hope that my daughter stops calling me periodically to see if I’m still alive and kicking.
*For Older Age, What Is It Good For? (Part I): https://medium.com/@syzygy33/old-age-what-is-it-good-for-5b80c595a210)
*For Older Age, What Is It Good For? (Part III): https://medium.com/@syzygy33/older-age-what-is-it-good-for-part-iii-fc660e079207