I’m coming up on the age my father was when he started complaining about “being an old man”.
My dad was really active, to a guilt-inspiring degree. In high school and college, he was a lifeguard. He could do a gorgeous swan dive and single-flip dive. He swam laps in the sea. Most days he would come home from work, park in the driveway, lower the garage door, and lift weights – he’d follow that with a run. But eventually he started getting injured. That didn’t stop his workouts or his runs – it just meant that every evening he’d sit on the sofa in the family room, one leg propped up on a footstool with an ice pack on his knee, eating Cheerios and drinking sherry.
I was sort of shocked when he started talking that way. Because of course you don’t think (particularly when you are 18 or so) that your parents are aged, decrepit and worn-out – they’re inconveniently old, and they totally don’t get anything about you, but they’re not on death’s door or anything. And my dad was so fit, so handsome, so smart, so eloquent. (And utterly clueless about raising teenage girls, but even people who have BEEN teenage girls are clueless about raising them.) But being so physical, he felt every stroke that age laid on him.
And I’m reaching that age. There are some limitations I’m willing to accept – that my knee, after a torn ACL and reconstructive surgery, will never bend all the way again. That I am beyond doing a split like I could in college. But one thing challenged me last year – the deterioration of the tendons in my left hip. Through process of elimination, it’s clear to me that the side effects of several rounds of antibiotics have caused a lot of damage, and I may never fully recover. So I have to be careful – biking and swimming instead of running and the elliptical, gradual weight-training instead of harsher approaches like boot camp.
But I don’t feel old in the way my father did. And there may be something to that – 12 years after he began this litany, only a few years after his own father had a fatal stroke, he suddenly died (of a heart attack, while mowing the lawn during a heat wave). Given his lifespan, he was old. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m way too young to lose the ability to bear weight on my hip. That I’ve been robbed of basic functionality (seriously, dancing?) thanks to sinus infections. But I don’t feel old.
My hair is very grey, and my girls think I’m hopelessly dated, but the other day I found myself skipping, hip be damned. Maybe I’m just nuts.