Friday, May 11, 2012

Wondering How I'll Die

Well, I suppose it's time to think about what kind of an old man I want to be. I'm forty-four. I'm not an old man, by any stretch, but, I'm sort of closer to old than young, when you think about it.

Nothing about that freaks me out, by the way. When I was a teenager, I used to think about being a dad some day. I used to think about what I was going to be when I grew up, like every other kid does. There was nothing weird about that -- so why would it be weird to think about being old -- or about dying, for that matter?

I'll die. I have no doubt. But I have come to two conclusions: 1) If I die, I don't want it to be my fault and (2), up to that great gettin' up day, I plan to remain a man.

Not-so-old Rocky.
There's nothing two-dimensional about my last statement. I don't mean I want to be able to beat up everyone in my class. What I mean is, I want to age with courage and grace. I want to maintain my dignity. To do this, I might well have to learn to keep my head up while people help me with things I can no longer do for myself. That will be hard, but I plan to do it if necessary. (I'd love to die of a heart attack while wrestling a grizzly bear at ninety, but the odds are against it.)

But the idea is to limit things that I will no longer be able to do. I don't plan to "go gentle into that good night."

You have to be able to catch the significance of things in order to act upon them. I'm not twenty and saying: "Man, I really should get in shape..." I'm forty-four and saying it. The urgency reached a crescendo.

Here's the trap: I'm in decent shape. I have always been naturally strong. I can still play three non-stop, hour-long sets of driving rock and roll on the drums. I can still pick up heavy stuff. But now is the time of life when nature pulls the rug out when you're not looking.

Tomorrow (even if tomorrow is three years that feel like a day), I could have the rug pulled out. I could pop a disk in my back because my core strength isn't good enough. I could develop diabetes because I'm carrying a few too many pounds (like my dad and uncle did). I could have a heart attack because my ticker is weak from a lack of exercise.

Fortunately, I have this really great friend: my wife. This morning, she helped me to wake up at the unspeakable hour of 5:45. (I'm a musician. For a long time, that was more like my bed time.) I waddled down to the treadmill in the dark and walked for a half-hour as the sun came up in the window behind me.

Just as I sometimes look at pictures of myself as a child and wonder if I have done justice to the little guy I once was, I now challenge the old man in my future: "What have you got, old man? Are you a winner or a quitter?"

I'll let you know when I meet him. I hope he doesn't have bad breath.


  1. 'Faster, faster', to quote the Red Queen from Alice through the Looking-glass - it is revolting to mention this but not only do you need to drag yourself up at 5.45, you also have to run violently on that treadmill. At least that's what the quacks in this country all drearily insist - it's all about sustained elevated heart rate appar. .. sorry, am I becoming a bore?

    1. But, does this count,Z? At 5:45 am, it feels like I am walking SO UNBELIEVABLY FAST at 2.5 miles per hour... Pushing it to 3.5 or four, several minutes later, feels like I might break the sound barrier.

      Alas: keep the heart rate up. Got it.

      And fear not: my bestest online chum could never become a bore.

    2. I think you probably should stay in bed at 5.45 am - I'm sure your bio-rhythms will get all buggered up if you exercise, however gently, at that time. Much better to move the treadmill in front of the telly or that unholy gaming contraption you fixed up for the kids and tramp away for hours after the evening meal, in the bosom of your family, who I'm sure will love you all the more for sharing intimately the sweat and tears involved.

    3. Sigh. I dunno. Maybe I'll just eat ice cream all day. I did walk last night and I got a mch better work-out than I did this morning... Hmmpf.