Personal Musings

Age Is Just a Number — That Keeps Going Up

Age is just a number, they say. In theory, I’m not against the spirit of the saying. But I would add an addendum: “…that keeps going up.” Because of late, I am suddenly beginning to feel my age. Sitting, standing, laying/lying (I always get the two confused), my body hurts.

Whereas a few years ago, I could hightail it out my front door and run 8-10 miles with relative ease, the past four or five months have put a damper on my spirit. Running two miles is a game of quirky multiplication: two miles feels like five, three miles like six, and five miles like 12.

No sooner than I’m a quarter mile up the road does my Achilles tendon on my left leg turn tight and tender. All the while, the inside of my other leg, near my right knee, stiffens and aches to where I can’t bend it all the way. I assume the latter is a form of arthritis much like my middle finger on my right hand where the knuckle now looks like a badonkadonk when I close my hand. Granted, I can’t make a fist anymore because of this finger. It’s set in a permanent middle finger pre-emptive strike pose.

“Badonkadonk” is a medical term in case you weren’t aware.

Do you have a knuckle on your finger that looks like a badonkadonk? If so, welcome to middle age. We’ve saved you a posture-friendly ergonomic chair with memory foam cushion for your stay.

I’m not complaining so much as I’m stating plainly the observations of my physical decline which is happening in real time. My body doth protest my caloric busting activities. Also: bending down to tie my shoes, vacuum, lift any object over five pounds, and so on.

None of this is to say I plan to give up said activities I enjoy like running, hiking, and basketball. Another sign of getting older is being stubborn as all get out, and I punched my card earlier this year. As a result, when it comes to ceasing physical exertion, my stubbornness will shine because I refuse to be a couch potato.

As Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said:

We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. But we do sometimes take a month off from shooting hoops because we re-aggravated a herniated disc.

George Bernard Shaw (mostly)

Okay, so George Bernard Shaw didn’t say the last sentence, and it’s entirely plausible he didn’t even say the first sentence though it’s attributed to him on the Internet. I’m fairly certain I could find it attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, or Satchel Paige all the same.

Regardless of who said it, it’s a saying, no matter how cliché it may be, I’ve tried to live by as a matter of principle.

I set a goal for myself a long time ago: to dunk on my son when he is a nimble 15 years old. As each year passes, and the closer I get to the day this was written in stone to come to fruition, the more I realize I should have started having kids when I was 18. He still has four years to go, as do I.

I will accomplish this goal regardless of the consequence, of which may very well be an inflamed disc in my lower back and a subsequent need for bed rest the following two weeks.

I can still dunk at my current age. Sure, the conditions have to be pristine lest I injure myself, but I can indeed still rise up and defy gravity for a few seconds. A few seconds less than ten years ago and my vertical a solid 12-18 inches southward, but I can still do it.

And I will dunk on my son Henry. It will happen. Because I want the image of his dad yamming it home on him to be etched in his memory for eternity, and then one day, when he is a dad to say to his son: “Your grandpa once dunked the ever-loving s—t out of the basketball on me when I was your age,” and then for my grandson to ask me when he comes over to visit, “Did you really dunk on dad?” and I respond, “You damn right.”

If this goal seems peculiar to you, know this: it’s important to me solely because I made it a goal more than two decades ago, before I even had a wife, much less kiddos in tow. I even went the Tony Robbins visualization route, so it must happen. It has to.

In reality, in four years’ time, as I’m gearing up to accomplish my goal of dunking on my son when he is fifteen years old, it may be me who ends up on the poster.

I’m reading String Theory by David Foster Wallace at the moment. With a revisited appreciation for the fuzzy green ball, I plan to start playing tennis again. I’ve recruited my wife, a no holds bar tennis player in her own right.

I’m not playing pickleball though. I have a solid 10-15 years of early middle age left in me before I transition to pickle ball. Pickleball has its place in sport, but I can’t go there yet. If my math checks out, I have a good 3,650-5,475 days left to pull my hammy and aggravate a herniated disc pretending I’m the second coming of Pete Sampras, albeit with significantly less body hair, before I pick up a pickleball racket.

While at my grandmother’s funeral earlier this month, I saw a lot of old faces I hadn’t seen in years. And by “old faces,” I don’t mean their faces looked old — or “your” face if you were there and think I’m talking about you. I’m speaking strictly as a figure of speech, in that I hadn’t seen their faces in a long time.

In ways it’s strange to see an old face. We’ve all aged, yet everyone looked to me the same as the last time I’d seen them. These were the parents of my childhood friends and those I attended church with as a spry young boy. When their faces came into view on Sunday, because: hello declining vision, I saw them as they were in my youth, as 35 year old parents whose houses I drank Kool-Aid at, despite a multiplication of two, which reflects, what is ultimately, their current age.

Based on my perspective of how I saw them, I presume they saw me, in turn, as a 10 year old boy or perhaps a 16 year old. I’m still a kid to them, likely, as they are young parents to me, even if now they’ve added “grand” as a prefix and I’ve grown a beard and added gray to it in the mix.

My daughter rode with me to the service. A few folks thought she was my wife from afar, and everyone was surprised by her age.

“Twelve going on sixteen,” one said.

“Wow. How tall are you?” another asked.

“Are you serious? That’s little Annabelle?”

And it is, perhaps this, the youth of my children, though growing up more and more by the day, which is the reason and logic behind this creeping feeling of physical decline in me.

I used to dust my kids when we’d sprint up a hill leading out of the woods. Now I feel like my heart is going to explode out of my chest halfway up, all the while my daughter, a quarter-inch from six feet tall now, glides on the surface of the grass leaving me in her wake.

Of course, they should beat me now I tell myself. Although I run, the pace slower, the distance shorter, and the time longer, my kids play competitive soccer for their age brackets; and soccer is, in my estimation, the most physically demanding sport in terms of VO2 max on this planet. This is not something I, a child who grew up in rural Virginia not exposed to the sport, was aware of until I became a soccer dad, shuttling my kids to and from practice over half the week, every week: fall, spring, and early summer.

Also: it’s worth noting here how vicious and physical a game soccer is, especially, in my humble opinion, the girls’ side of the sport where there are more hip checks per half than the length of an underground hockey game played in Quebec.

Regardless, there’s a dull ache, less so a pang, of seeing your physical decline happen in real time at an expediently faster pace than even a few short years ago.

Of what you assume to be injuries that never heal and you come to find out is arthritis and you’re stuck with it for life.

And while age may be just a number, it may be saying something that half the time I can’t even remember what that number is.

My kids: How old are you?

Me: I’m forty years young.

My wife: You’re not forty.

My kids: I thought you were forty-three.

Me: I’m not forty-three. Sorry, forty-one.

My wife: You’re not forty-one. You’re forty-two.

Me: You’re right. I’m forty-two. Messed up on my math.

As Bob Barker, a man I grew up watching on The Price is Right once said, “Help control the pet population. Spay and neuter your pets.”

Sorry, wrong Bob.

As Bob Hope once said, “I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap.”

And the truth is, there’s a great deal of wisdom in that. I don’t feel old. But I mean, who doesn’t love a good nap?

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