I’m in my 51st year on the planet. Although many people have exceeded my longevity, this impresses me. Of course, lots of folks lived less time than I have and did much more–Mozart, for example. All in all, though, living longer is a good thing.
I now read AARP publications. AARP recently ran a tongue-in-cheek article about things NOT to do after age 50. It was somewhat humorous. Somewhat. Like a lot of things, it got me thinking. Now, that I’m 50 (and have been for several months now), what won’t I do? Here are five such things:
PLAY BALL! I’ve written before about my mediocrity as an athlete. That never stopped me from trying to play sports. No more. No basketball. No softball. No flag football. Nothing where I risk injury. Why? I don’t want any other injuries. The older you get, the more injury-prone you are. My sports are now limited to baseball and basketball with my youngest son and even then I don’t go all out.
I’ve never had a serious injury. I’ve never worn a cast or had surgery or used crutches. I did tear a muscle in my shoulder once, but they can’t do much about that. I had a stress fracture in my foot, but it went away.
In my 30’s I scraped the outside of left calf sliding during a softball game. It looked like a burn and hurt like hell. It scabbed up in a couple of days. Then, the scab disappeared, and it looked like an orange peel, except oozy. You know how your mother said that a cut with red lines running from it is bad? It had those, two. It was something called cellulitis. The doctor said it was a “galloping infection.” I had to elevate my leg and put a heating pad on the open wound. I also had to draw a circle around it with a Sharpie. If the red spread past the outline, that would be bad. When I stood, the blood rushed to my leg and it felt like a thousand needles. I had to get a shot every day, too, for a week. The shot gave me diarrhea. For days, I was reduced to lying down with a heating pad on an open sore which burned like it was on fire while trying to control my bowels and drawing on my leg with a magic marker. I’m just too old for this kind of thing.
Even if I wanted to play sports, I probably can’t. The simplest of sports may be beyond me now. A few months ago, I passed baseball with my 17-year-old son who is a high school baseball player. He can throw 80-85 mph without much effort. I was terrified. Enough of that, too.
Fortunately, my youngest son is almost 11 now. If I had a younger kid, I’d hire someone to play with him. No sense taking unnecessary risks.
ANGRY UP MY BLOOD: The great baseball player Satchel Paige once cautioned against eating fried food, because it would angry up one’s blood. I don’t necessarily agree with that, because I like fried food. I do, however, agree with the caution about angrying up the blood.
I was an angry young man. Angry about all kinds of stuff–my job, politics, religion, sports–pretty much everything. I had a short fuse which was easily lit, too. I was an unpleasant person. I’m too old for all that, as well.
It seems that my peers become angrier with age while I mellow. I am aging in reverse, like a far less handsome version of Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button. It seems that everyone my age is mad about liberals, conservatives, the rich, the poor, taxes, drones, sports, religion and life in general. Here’s the deal: We all have opinions. So do I. I’m certain that mine aren’t all that important. In fact, I may be flat wrong on many (most?) of them. Same goes for you. I’m sure that pisses you off. Relax.
I’m confident that being mad shortens my life. How? Well, every minute I waste fuming about something, I could be doing something else. So, there goes part of my life down the old crapper. As a live and let live guy, I really don’t care if you’re mad, even at me. Just don’t ask me to play along.
GET IN MY CUPS: I was once quite fond of strong drink. I may still be, but I haven’t partaken in several years. Understand that I have no problem with those that do. I just believe that such indulgences are a young man’s game. Hangovers had bad for my brain. Why else would my head hurt like that? Vomiting is no good under any circumstances. Also, not remembering conversations or where I’ve been or what I’ve done is problematic. Soon enough, age itself will cause such problems. No need to speed the plow.
Here’s the kind of thing I did when I drank. A few years ago (not as many as you might think), my wife and I went to a party. I drank quite a bit before the party and quite a bit at the party. Oh, I had a grand time–or so I’ve heard. When we came home, I retired to the basement whereupon I quickly dozed off (the more crass of you might call it “passing out.”) A couple of hours into my respite, I had the urge to relieve myself. Rising from the couch, I was unsteady on my feet. No doubt this was from the deep REM sleep. As I staggered toward the bathroom, somehow I fell forward, striking my head on a wooden post. Oh, I also broke my glasses.
No problem. Holding my forehead, I made it to the bathroom and did my business. My right brow was really throbbing, so I thought I might take a look at it. Leaning close the mirror–remember my glasses were broken–I moved my hand from my right eye to get a good look.
The funny thing about cuts to the head is that they bleed far in excess of the severity of the actual injury. When I moved my hand, blood fairly gushed from a small slice in my right eye brow. It ran into my eye and down my face. It just kept coming. There was only one thing to do–I puked and went into a full-blown swoon. Then I sat in the floor convinced that I was bleeding to death and would be found covered in blood and vomit–not a glorious demise.
So, I did the only thing I could do. Holding a towel to my head, I climbed the two flights of stairs to the master bedroom and consulted my dear wife. Let’s just say that the evening suddenly took an even uglier turn.
I’m too old for this kind of foolishness now. Let the young men bleed profusely and copiously vomit. I’ll sip my Starbucks, work the crossword puzzle and retire for the evening at 9:30 or so.
EAT WELL: This takes some explaining. I don’t eat all that poorly. I don’t have a weight problem. I’m a lean, mean 160 pounds. Perfect middle-weight size. Think of me as a whiter, less-imposing, soft version of Marvelous Marvin Hagler (if you don’t know Hagler, you’re not my age). At one time I weighed 176 pounds, which was a little too much. I quickly shed that weight. That’s just a genetic thing. Don’t get all pissed off (see section above).
People want me to eat well, and I guess I should. My family has a bit of a history of heart disease. Regardless, there are things I like to eat. They include, but are not limited to:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Ice Cream
- Pork in general
- Deep fried anything
- Peanut butter
- Hot dogs
- Red meat
- White meat
I also don’t mind my food being laced with preservatives. Why not? Hey, I like it preserved until I want to eat it. Call me crazy.
I’m not diabetic. I don’t have celiac disease. Or diverticulitis. Or any food allergies. If you do, please watch what you eat. The key here is to watch what you eat, not what I eat.
If YOU don’t want to eat this stuff, I’m okay with it. I won’t force it on you. I don’t have people to my house for dinner anyway. Eat what you want. You can eat free range horse for all I care. Just don’t tell me what to eat. I enjoy food and fully intend to continue to do so.
FIGHT CLUB: Chief Joseph said: “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” That’s a good philosophy, and I agree wholeheartedly with him. Fighting isn’t good, especially if you run the risk of getting the crap beat out of you.
Like heavy drinking, fighting is a young man’s business. When you’re young, fighting can be a test of your manhood. It can also be provoked by heavy drinking. Either way, it’s usually a one-on-one situation and little harm is done.
Unlike in the movies, real fights rarely result in a lot of punching. A good punch is almost always a “sucker” punch which the recipient doesn’t see coming. Otherwise, punching is mostly a bunch of embarrassingly wild swinging.
It hurts to be squarely punched in the face. It also hurts to squarely punch someone in the face. Your hand explodes in pain. I don’t like pain. That said, real fights end up with a bunch of rolling around on the ground.
Another thing about real fights. No one gets punched in the face repeatedly and keeps fighting. Nor do you punch anyone in the face repeatedly. The human head is hard. It’s like a bowling ball with a few soft places on it. Go punch a wall five or ten times and let me know what you think.
At a certain age–maybe 30–I realized that people who are willing to fight might be dangerous, especially if they, too, were in their 30’s. These folks also tend to carry weapons, because they’re looking for trouble. I don’t want even a remotely deadly weapon used on me. I don’t want to throw a punch and miss, only to end up with a Chinese throwing star stuck in my forehead.
One possible exception is that I might fight a younger man. Why would I do that? Wouldn’t youth put me at a terrible disadvantage? Possibly. However, don’t discount the power of being Old Man Strong. We all reach an age where our years create a certain toughness without us even knowing it. Some suggest that perhaps we lose the will to live and become fearless. I prefer to think of it as God’s way of rewarding us for surviving.
When I was in high school, a friend of mine foolishly punched his dad. His dad didn’t flinch. Old Man Strong. Fight over.
So, if you’re a young fellow, be careful. If you get mouthy with an old guy and he just chuckles or, worse yet, takes a step toward you, run. It may be all that saves your dignity.
This is hardly a comprehensive list of things I won’t be doing. Such things as starting a meth lab, amateur pornography and polygamy are also taboo. These, though, are things I wouldn’t have ever done, as far as you know.
I’m not perfect. Maybe one day I’ll be shooting basketball with my kid, and you’ll wander into my yard spewing about politics and telling me to reduce the MSG in my diet. Like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, I’ll take a swig of whiskey and then start a fight with you. Let’s try to avoid all that.