Signs of Aging

washing a car with a sponge
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While vacuuming out the car in preparation for our upcoming trip, I couldn’t help noticing that my lower back ached. I was bending at unusual angles trying to hoover dried Cheerios, Tootsie Pop wrapper, and other unidentifiable detritus from the cracks and crevices of the car’s cabin. I got about half the car done, stood, and like cliché of an old man in a movie, put my hands on my lower back and tried to stand up straight. It was one more sign of aging.

There have been others. I’ve been finding it increasingly more difficult to tie my shoes in the morning. Whether it is just the need to stretch more, or to reduce some of the flesh that has accrued around my middled where I (used to) bend naturally, I find myself frustrated by how my effort a simple task like that takes.

I’ll go into the shower, one of the few places where my mind wanders freely, and after a few minutes, I can’t remember if I washed my hair or not. I’m probably washing my hair more than I need to these days. Often twice in the same shower.

My reading glasses have become my pretty-much-all-the-time glasses. I was reluctant to admit this, since I’d had perfect vision until I turned 40. I finally came to a reluctant acceptance of this when I ordered my most recent pair of glasses with Transitions lenses, knowing that if I was going to read something outside, I’d need my glasses, and I might as well wear the ones that help me see better.

These signs of aging come at a time when I am about three months shy of turning fifty. It seems like just yesterday that I turned forty. When I lay in bed at night not falling asleep, I think of those days as a kid when I drifted off as soon as my head hit the pillow. I slept soundly through the night back then, in large part because I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I have a hard enough time falling asleep once at night, now I have to do it twice.

When I was ten, fifty seemed old. Now it seems young. I try to imagine myself playing baseball at fifty. Satchel Paige played baseball into his fifties, so it is physically possible if you are in shape. But getting into good shape seems harder at fifty than when I did it in my thirties.

There are other signs of aging. My patience seems to get shorter with each passing year. I used to think of myself a unusually patient person. Now, the shortest, most innocent delays can try my patience. Meditation has helped with this a little, but there are some things that I just have no patience for at all, traffic and parking being the two at the top of my list. If parking somewhere is going to be difficult, I’d rather not go at all, or Uber, or do anything but park. I’ll walk instead, even if it is miles away. Walking is one thing I do better as I get older.

As a kid, I used to love to swim. As an old(er) man I’m not as fond of it anymore. I can’t say why, exactly. I enjoy going to the beach or the pool with the family, but I’d rather read, or socialize than swim.

I don’t look forward to going to the movies. It’s just not a fun experience. Movie theaters are often in crowded malls or shopping centers. That means parking. Tickets are expensive, movies are mediocre. I like that many movies are now released on streaming services at the same time as in theaters. I can watch from the comfort of my couch. The one exception here is the movie theater near my mother-in-law’s house in Florida. That is at a big outdoor shopping center, but it is never crowded. It is easy to park there and we’ve gone to showings where we were the only ones in the theater.

All of these signs of aging are a little depressing. I keep telling myself that this whole aging thing is a phase, and that once the phase passes, I’ll be in good shape again, I won’t grunt when I tie my shoes, I can leave the house without my glasses on and actually read the label on the easy-open bottle of Advil. I won’t forget the name of the person I was just talking to five minutes ago, won’t forget to put a new garbage bag in the garbage can when I take out the trash, and will remember that, yes, I already washed my hair once this shower.

At least I still have my hair. Of course, it is mostly gray at this point.

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