I had a chance, even in my mid-50s, to beat the little whippersnapper I call my teenage son — at least in my own mind.
We lined up on the corner for our 100-yard dash. My wife waited with cellphone camera to capture what she tried vigorously yet unsuccessfully to convince me was a losing cause.
“I got this… I’m gon’ smoke this boy (then 14)…”
“O-O-O-Kaaa,” she said.
“No way, no way, he can beat me,” I teased.
The boy chimed in. “All right, we gon’ see…”
I was racing for bragging rights. Or was it my attempt to show my son that “dad’s still got it”? Maybe. Or maybe it was to prove that even though gray hair lies at my beard’s roots, I’m not quite ready to be put out to pasture.
We leaned forward, inches from a Stop sign, awaiting the signal from my wife — clearly biased toward her baby boy. I should have listened. But I was a mule-headed Baby Boomer unwilling to yield to the physics of time and age, even in the face of a sleek Post-Millennial Generation Z-er.
Never mind that I’ve been receiving AARP invitations for years now without responding.
A little Just For Men helps hide my gray. Zumba a few times a week keeps these old bones moving. Weightlifting keeps my pectorals from turning into man breasts. And I continue to live inside my own delusion that I am licking this aging thing.
Truth is, I do see, hear and feel Father Time. And though he has not been unkind, he is faithful and methodical in his claim and toll to exact upon us all.
My mother used to say, “Youth is wasted on the young.”
I’m still not sure about that. I do believe, however, that by the time we come into the consciousness of the value of our youth, it has seeped away like sweat from our pores.
Except there is no recipe for getting it back. No Fountain of Youth. No pause button for life, which increasingly seems stuck in fast-forward.
It isn’t aging I abhor. Not the passing of time and seasons. Not growing old.
Perhaps it is that when you someday find your cup finally full, and life at last sweeter than you might ever have imagined, the tendency is to want to freeze it. Instead of drifting inalterably into the future, where old age — for the lucky ones — and ultimately death are as certain as sunrises and sunsets.
I realize it is the difference between taking photographs to be framed and hung on a wall. Or choosing to inhale life, embrace it, touch its fabric that kisses the fingers like silk.
Maybe we can do both.
Here lately, I’ve been focusing on living in the moment. On dwelling within the heart, meaning, to mentally — as my son used to say as a young tyke — “Go to the happy place.”
My intent is to make memories. To savor every drop of life’s sunshine. To worry less about what has been lost along this journey and to cherish what has been found.
To learn to grow old gracefully. To know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away, and when to run…
My wife gave the signal. The boy shot off like lightning. I tried to catch him.
Then suddenly, Uncle Charley — as in Charley horse — grabbed the back of my left thigh. Mercilessly, my son galloped off, laughing and talking smack all the way to the finish line, having whipped his old man.
But no shame in my game. I’m just happy to still have a chance.
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