Call it ego. Call it vanity. Call it refusing to accept the truth. As we age, our bodies do change. A good friend wrote a piece about “women of a certain age” and she shared the insight that many women look upon themselves as they age and are not happy. From my experience, the problem is a combination of using a measuring stick that is one part Madison Avenue and one part memory of a young lady long ago. Sure, you can complement her until the cows come home, but the wretched feeling of not quite being the same is powerful.
8th hole at Gunpowder Golf Course as seen in 2012
Men face dilemma’s as well. We age and our body is not the same. Advertising spends about 10 minutes out of every hour offering sexual performance enhancing drugs. A few even have a woman spokesperson, suggesting you really need to consider a boost in the bedroom. Privately most men chuckle at the warning…should you have an erection that lasts four hours, see a doctor. No one I have ever known has suffered that fate, not when they were 20, 25 or 30. Personally, I think that is just thrown into the ad copy to leave the impression that if 4 hours is possible, 15 minutes is lock.
Vanity and fear are powerful sales tools.
What we don’t really talk about or share are the degenerative conditions. The body breaking down. Sure, we joke that we don’t move as fast, lift as much, dance as long, hear as well or see as clearly as we used to be able to do. It happens to everyone. It does not happen overnight. Changes occur from season to season.
8th hole at Gunpowder Golf Course as seen in 2013
One day you realize, your life has changed and you have not even noticed. Well, you notice but you don’t realize the change is permanent and erosive. These changes may be at the root of grumpy old men. The very things we love most about life…experiencing them…begins to fade. Sound and vision, once the hallmark of active living and responding can no longer be relied on. The world is the same around you (at least one must assume that is the case), but the people you interact with become perplexed and confused with your behavior and responses to the world.
The magic of a whispered “I love you” becomes lost in the background noise that blots out soft words. The clarity of a brisk fall morning becomes muted by the merging of colors dulled by clouded vision. These changes are on the inside. They are not felt by those around you. Your family and friends, those you spend time with, are on the same pace as you are. Your changes creep into your existence and they are so subtle, others hardly notice a difference on a day to day basis. Today is not much different than yesterday. Today is very different than last year or the year before that. If you could mark you ability to hear and see on the wall (like the notches used to measure a child’s growth), the changes would become very obvious. But we don’t do that…we pretty much suffer in silence.
8th hole at Gunpowder Golf Course as seen in 2014
We go along. We continue to do the things we used to do. Maybe not as well, maybe not as often, but we continue…until we just can’t anymore. The most painful thing is that it is realized after the fact. At some point, your spouse or co-worker or friend has that eureka moment. You were not ignoring them, you didn’t hear what they said. You were not being dismissive, you didn’t hear what they said. Sadly (I was young once and I am sure I was just as guilty and the rest the world), they don’t think back, they just look forward. Why sadly? I am pretty sure others have felt unintended pain. You weren’t ignored, you were not heard.
Vision fails as well. What is perceived as sloppy driving, is really not being able to judge distance, speed, etc. as well as you did in the past. Lanes become more narrow and cars parked on the side of the road seem to take up much more space. The fear of missing a turn has you move into the turn lane miles before the turn is made. Parallel parking seems much easier that maneuvering your car between two others in a parking lot. The outside world sees impatience, while you suddenly find yourself frantically going through a mental checklist because you don’t trust rote action anymore. But you continue on. After all, you have done these chores, performed these tasks, completed these actions easily all your life. Fear and uncertainty may slow you down but they do not stop you. Until, one day, you just can’t do it anymore.
8th hole at Gunpowder Golf Course as seen in 2015
I don’t drive at night anymore. It is not just the overwhelming glare of oncoming headlights that blinds me. When there are few street lamps and I am on a road I have not used daily, I know I can not see well enough to operate the car. I do not have the right to put you or anyone else with me or on. the road with me at risk. Now, I have finally reached the point where the game I loved to play has become a memory. I have not seen a ball I have hit in almost two years. My depth perception is non-existent. Oh, I stumbled along with the aid of a laser pin finder. I fooled myself into believing I could calculate the distance and select the right club to accomplish a shot. Playing on a course I have wandered for over 30 years, I could still shoot in the low 70’s. I could feel my around. Take me somewhere else and balls were lost, greens were missed and internally I could not accept the results. Last week, I was entered in a club championship. I suffered 6 lost balls through 9 holes and withdrew. Walked off the course. Quit. I could not aim where I could not see. I could not find my ball after it was struck and my playing partner said “Hey, you are responsible for keeping track of your ball.”
I am not alone. There are lots of us old guys wandering fairways. For those that have “lost it”, I understand. For those that smugly watch us suffer…your day will come. You see, we all either age or die. I suppose it is my hope that my friends and family understand that these changes do impact me physically, mentally and emotionally. Those of you that have a family member or friend, male or female that has passed into the post-medicare eligible age, try to be patient. Understand that the person you are dealing with is the same, they just don’t have the same abilities they may have had just last week.
Oh, and to the women that bemoan the loss of youth, for what it’s worth, the beauty of what you have become is far greater than the looks of that young woman from yesterday. There are some truth’s that can not be denied.