Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tempus, Fuggit

No, that's not a misprint in the title.  It's a polite way of expressing an opinion.

I've decided that old age is for the old, and I define "the old" as those who have decided to enter old age.  (Just to avoid stepping in a really big one, let me make clear at the outset that I exempt from everything that follows those who for medical or psychological reasons have to cope with tragically diminished capacity.)  I'm talking about those of us for whom most systems continue to function and whose heart, as Mel Brooks once put it, has not attacked them.

We obviously inhabit a blessed period in which medicine and a heightened awareness of how to live in a healthy fashion have increased our expected life span.  Many of us can look forward, if a bit apprehensively, to eight or even nine decades in this vale of tears--which, I have to admit, I've found extremely rich in enjoyment.  Maybe I've been doing it wrong.

They say that time flies when you enjoy yourself, and it certainly has for me.  Here I am all of a sudden, by my own standards an old guy.  I'm older now than my father was when he died, older, it seems chronologically, than the Old Testament.  And you know what?  I say, fuggit.

Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man notwithstanding, I've decided to lengthen my stay in the Fifth Stage, the Justice, while attempting to avoid the rounded belly, and stave off as long as possible the attitudes and mental habits that hasten our progress into the Sixth and Seventh, which, according to Shakespeare, is second infancy.  While I assumed I enjoyed being an infant, returning to that stage has few charms.

There are few things I could do 30 years ago that I can't do now, and there are some things I do better now than at any earlier point in my life.  I have the great good fortune of having spent most of my life in a state of mental hyperactivity and to have married a woman who reminded me, and continues to remind me, that my body needs activity, too.  I wake up every morning thankful for the years I've had and the fun I've had in them and fully expecting to continue in this state for some time to come.

I will continue to write, I will continue to read, I will continue to listen to music both consciousness-expanding and trivial, I will continue to invest time rather than spending or wasting it, although I'll waste some in moderation.  I will continue to pursue a few selected bad habits in moderation. I'll do whatever the hell I want, in moderation.  I will chase everything I desire, whether or not I think I can catch it.  I will not worry about my dignity or what's appropriate.

I will stop using the word "appropriate," which is a blight on the English language.  When a Conressman is caught attempting to molest a page boy or girl, the word for that behavior is a lot stronger than "inappropriate."

I will not stop thinking I have the right to criticize the way people abuse the language, or for that matter, the institutions of government.  Seniority has its privileges, and grumpiness is among them.

So is a certain amount of selfishness.  As the amount of time left shrinks, I think we can all be excused for focusing more intently on the things that matter most.  So the lion's share of my energy in the upcoming years will be devoted to three things that have always been important to me, but which become more important as I get older.  First, to deserve the woman who married me.  Second, to write the best books I can, and as many of them as possible.  Third, to wring the largest possible amusement out of life, whether that's reading Shakespeare or watching "Storage Wars."

Whose life is it, anyway?  If it isn't mine by this time, I really have been doing it wrong.

Tim -- Sundays


  1. Happy Birthday, kindred spirit.

    I've always said no one will ever be able to say that I'm senile because I've been that way all my life.

  2. The first one is the toughest. Good luck on all three.

  3. My husband will be celebrating his birthday in three weeks; he is a few years older than you. He opted to never completely grow up. My niece's three daughter think he is the funniest person they have ever known (they range in age from 10 to almost 5) and the youngest thinks his first name is "silly". No family gathering is complete unless Silly is there. She will outgrow him soon.

    Jeff, does being senile mean you don't remember where you put the most recent draft of your next book or does it mean you have forgotten that you write books? Big difference there.

    Tim, joyful living and and brain that is always engaged makes living to any age worthwhile. I told my daughters that there a few things I will never do if I am in my right mind. They know that if I ever start they should put me in a senior storage facility.

    My father's aunt lived to be 92 with all faculties intact. Despite always being a city-dweller, she got up with the birds, ate her main meal at 11:00 am, and thought the people in the television could see her. She was born on May 20 in 1890 and saw the invention and discovery of almost everything we take for granted.

    So may you out live her, writing books the whole time.

  4. One of the reasons I enjoy your writing so much, Tim, is that you write exactly what I would like to say. Or say exactly what I like to hear. Or think just like me. Except when you don't.

    Oh fuggit.

  5. You said it so well, Tim. May you relish every moment of the years ahead, and write as many books as you can. (That was a selfish wish on my part.) Even though the body is kicking, my mind seems to be making it through, so we muddle along together. And, Jeff, I don't believe it for one minute.

  6. Old & young are states of mind. I think they're a choice. Our bodies grow old. We never have to grow up. Go Tim.

  7. I am, once again, sorry not to have responded earlier. Until about six weeks ago, I got an email whenever anyone commented on one of my posts here, but no longer.

    So glad this resonated with all of you. It's pretty much where I am at the moment, and I'm triply grateful to have all of you seconding the motion so eloquently. Laren, Lil, Everett, Jeff, Beth, Kevin -- good friends, all.