I’ve heard some people say that fifty is the new thirty. I must’ve missed something. I just turned fifty this summer and it sure doesn’t feel like thirty. When I was thirty I could go for five-mile run on a summer morning, work all day doing physical labor at my landscaping business and go for a swim in the evening at the lake. And the great thing about being thirty was that I could do the same thing the next day. If I’d tried my run/work/swim trifecta tomorrow at fifty you might find me at the bottom of the lake. As the late, great Betty Davis said some years ago, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” She was right.
Here is a list of some of the things I could do when I was thirty: a triathlon, an ultra marathon, work longer and harder, eat more and weigh less and catch the eyes of pretty women. I probably still catch the eyes of some pretty women; it’s just that with my eyesight, I don’t notice them.
I won’t even going to list of the things I can’t do at fifty because it would take all day. The thing I miss the most is distance running. But I had a seventeen-year career and pounded out around 25,000 miles. I’m happy to say that I treasured every mile. Right after I turned forty things went downhill. My father died suddenly of a heart attack, the lines on my morning paper started to get fuzzy, and my left foot hurt so badly the morning after my daily runs I could barely walk. I had no choice but to hang up my running shoes. This meant hanging up part of who I was as well. My invincibility was crushed with a humbling identity crisis.
That was almost ten years ago and I’ve learned to adjust to my new life. I’ve replaced running with the more forgiving sport of swimming. The problem with that is I have to go to the pool vs. just lacing up my running shoes and going for run anywhere I want. During my triathlon days, I learned to swim in open water. That means I can swim in just about any Lake provided there aren’t any motorboats (the motors scare me) because I don’t know where they’re coming from. I can actually swim faster now at fifty then I did when I was thirty. This is because my technique and training are better now—not because I’m older. Another thing I noticed since turning fifty is some things, especially loud music, really annoy the hell out of me. I’m not talking about classic rock and roll; I’m talking about rap-music and a lot of the other stuff they put out. In my day you had to play guitar and sing and perform in front of a live audience to get noticed. Now days you just have to grab your crotch and swear like a sailor. Sorry boys and girls, that doesn’t take any talent. Even fireworks are getting a little irritating but that’s only because my birthday is right before the 4th of July which means when I start hearing fireworks there’ll be yet another candle on my birthday cake. At least I can still blow them all out with one breath.
The pool has also introduced me to a new group of friends. I affectionately call them my swimming buddies. Some are younger and some older but we all have the same thing in common, mortality. There are some advantages to turning fifty and some humorous things as well.
I can change my hair color from white to black in one day. I always get a double-take from just about every person I haven’t seen a while when I do that. Now days I keep a little gray because it means I’ve earned my wisdom and experience. That’s another advantage to getting older, experience. Mistakes that I made in my twenties and thirties I can see coming a mile away. The great Oscar Wilde once said, “Experience is one thing that you can’t have for nothing.” He was indeed a great man. I also can get discounts on just about everything with my AARP card. The problem is I haven’t signed up yet because I can’t quite convince myself that I’m actually fifty years old. That’s a half a century. I still can’t believe it.
To all the young people reading this and thinking, “boy I feel sorry for this poor old guy.” DON’T! The reasons why are endless but here’s one I’m sure you can relate to. I would rather be my age now than twenty now. This might make some of you young people wonder why. Just about everything you use was invented by my generation. That’s right, if you’ve ever used and I-pod or smart phone or I-pad or Xbox then you can thank us. And as far as accomplishments go, until we set foot on Mars, going to the Moon was the greatest accomplishment mankind has ever achieved.
So in the final analysis turning fifty isn’t so bad. It just means I’m getting older. Some things the younger generation does, really annoy me, but I did the same thing to my parents’ so in that respect I’m the same as any young person. All I wish for any man, woman, boy or girl is to have a good life and grow old with grace and dignity. And above all, be happy, because this is the only life we have.