I am getting old. There is no getting around it, the numbers do not lie. Mathematics is a pure science and one look at the numbers it is becoming painfully clear that I am getting old. How long, I wonder, is it until I stop “getting old” to “being old”?
There was a time when I firmly believed that I would not live past thirty years old. Being thirty in those days did very much seem to be the definition of “old”. When I arrived at the age of thirty it did not seem old at all and I braced myself for another ten years of getting older. I passed forty and began another ten years of getting older until I hit fifty. Forty did not seem old when I passed that milestone and neither did fifty. Now I am closing in on sixty and, although I do not feel old at my present age of fifty four, sixty does seem like I will finally reach life’s goal of “being old”. Once upon a time I thought of thirty years as a very long time that would end in death and I find myself hitting the mark of thirty years at my present job. No, thirty years does not constitute “being old”. Neither does forty or fifty for that matter since I am, obviously, not yet old.
Although I was not a very good student, I did manage to absorb some things that certain teachers had said. One thing I remember hearing was the thought that old age and death was not a real thing. This was based on the assumption that I belonged to a race of people that had become so advanced that we grew bored and fell asleep and this life that we perceive as reality was actually just a dream. As part of these dreams, each individual does not die while others around him continue to die. I realized the falsity of this thinking when I realized the John Lennon was dead and that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were not co-Presidents of this country for life and the fact that the University of Kansas had won several NCAA basketball championships while the University of Missouri had yet to win even one championship plus the fact that I was not still twenty one. So I am not living my own dream and am indeed still getting old.
It seems that I always looked at “being old” as pertaining to the generations that were here before I entered this rough road called life. My great-grandmother was old. My grandparents were old and my own parents have always been old in my eyes. When my parents die, do I finally achieve that strange goal of “being old” rather than “getting old”?
Whenever the meaning of life happens to come up in a conversation, whether it is a serious or humorous discussion, my standard answer to that long unanswered question has been, “The meaning of life is to die”. I am, I think, more than halfway serious when I say that the meaning of life is to die. Dying is what all of life is leading up to and as long as a person is not dead, he is “getting old”.
A cousin of mine met an untimely death in a car accident when he was eighteen. My grandfather died when he was in his eighties. In both cases, each of them stopped the process of “getting old” when they died which brings us to the stunning conclusion that both my eighteen year old cousin and my 80 year old grandfather attained the title of “being old” rather than “getting old”.
I almost was old one time, but my wife, therapist and doctor put me in a center to stop my suicidal ideation, which was very strong at the time. Because of their intervention, I find myself still sitting here at my desk “getting old”.
We begin getting old the day we are born and we continue getting old until the day that death finally takes from the toil of life, and then we are old for a split second as our soul retreats from our bodies. We will all “be old” one day but not long enough to enjoy the fact that we achieved the title of being old.
The “golden years” that we all aspire to does not happen until we are old and we are still getting old until we become old and die. The golden years do not exist. It is a golden second at best, and then we move on.