ON BECOMING ANTIQUE
(or…never use the word…old…in front of an old person)
There are moments when I can’t help but wonder…am I still relevant to the daily hustle and bustle that surrounds me? The answer to such a question is, probably not, because looking back on a road past-travelled (the track of which could have perhaps been slightly straighter and a little less wobbly along the way), and the shock of realizing that having recently past my ninetieth milestone I’m now within a decade of reaching the century mark…it’s a reality which is not easy to accept much less comprehend.
While my physical condition and form belies such a chronology, my mental processes now seem to be operating by a completely alien set of parameters compared to those of the others who surround me these days. Adding to that sense of being an alien life-form, is the manner and style of language I use to express myself. A language usage which further seems to confirm to others that there is a very large and self-evident gap between us. A gap which they not only find puzzling (as if I were some kind of Rip Van Winkle type suddenly dropped into their midst) but also leaving them uncertain about the meaning of my presence among them…or how they should react to it. In short, it seems I have become “elderly” without realizing it, probably because the process is so subliminal in the way it progresses into one’s life its arrival invariably catches us unawares.
One of the earliest hints that I’ve reached such a condition is the way I respond to questions about my military service and what rank I achieved while in that service. Nowdays I respond by saying I was once a – Centurion – only to then hastily add that this was in our Army not the Roman one, because I fear they might not understand that reference…as being someone who came up through the ranks, to ultimately become commissioned, and command a unit of some one hundred men.
Another example of how this mismatch between my physical appearance and actual age is the way it makes me try to be amusing about it…such as…when an obviously mature woman of a certain age asked why someone like me, who was approaching his second childhood, was considering running for political office…to which I gave the smiling and teasing response of…Ma’am, I wasn’t aware I had left my first one yet! Unfortunately, since her humor quotient was apparently deficient that did not amuse her at all…so she just glared indignantly back at me and left in a huff.
Of course, there can also be some rather pleasant moments as a newly-minted “elderly” type, such as when I find myself having a delightful interlude schmoozing with a very attractive young woman. That is, since from my new-found perspective that any woman under the age of sixty-five now qualifies as a “hot young chick”, I can happily indulge myself with a bit of prurient speculation about having a fling with such a sweet young thing.
But inevitably, alas, there always comes that moment when both of us realize that the gap between us is way beyond any May-December deal and thus…unbridgeable. Even so I’m often left with the impression from such young women that they’re disappointed, rather than disturbed for having possibly encountered a dirty old man with dreams of glory on his mind. While I can accept that harsh reality, I’m still left with a gratifying sense of self-approval that, even as an old dog…I still have “it”.
Elderly status also offers a certain number of other advantages as well. For one thing, especially if one uses a cane, you get a certain amount of deference because, most folks, will kindly move aside to let you cruise grandly by, or pause, to hold a closing door for you so you won’t have to wrestle with it to keep it open yourself…to pass through it. And, more often than not, you also get a seat offered to you onboard a crowded bus. At such moments, because I don’t wish to be rude, I simply graciously accept such small courtesies as my just due, and flash back a smiling “thank you” in acknowledgement.
Deep inside, however, I’m bemused by it all because, being neither crippled or otherwise physically handicapped, still retaining a thick thatch of hair firmly in place where it has always been (not yet snow-capped and with only faint suggestions of grey), displaying only a few minor nicks and dings on this frame of mine from a lifetime of adventures and misadventures, and not being as agile and nimble as I once was, none of that prevents me from striding along with the demeanor of a geriatric T-Rex still able and ready to rumble with anything or anyone it might encounter…yet wondering why that should leave me feeling like a complete impostor.
Perhaps the answer to that is because my mind has not kept in synch with the pace at which my physical form has moved along through time, thus finding itself lagging behind all of that…still turning over on all cylinders and maintaining the acuities of its youthful RPM’s, thereby making it almost impossible to “act my age”, and with the dilemma of how to cope with such a dichotomy between mind and body. I suppose it’s a problem some might envy because, compared to so many others of lesser age…it’s an enviable condition…but one which also somewhat offends my doctor who has stated, on several occasions, that if the rest of his patients were in my condition at my age…he’d go broke…which may explain why he doesn’t care to see me more than twice a year.
Another gratifying aspect of having reached such a point of advanced chronology is that one is no longer constrained by youthful inhibitions of being politically correct, so now I can be bluntly outrageous in my opinions and perspectives about anything, without having people reacting negatively to them. At worse, they simply shrug and chalk it all up to my being a typically grumpy old coot who has probably lived too long. In any event it is a most liberating feeling to know I can now speak my mind without any concerns.

Better yet, the cumulative load of my life’s experience no longer seems to feel like a weight carried on my back, having been somehow transformed instead into a cargo of knowledge, resembling the clutter of a fully-crammed closet more than anything else. To what extent any of the contents in it might ever be considered a treasure trove of worthwhile knowledge, however, is had to say. It doesn’t really matter anyway, since others will have the task of figuring that out for themselves.
Another beneficial aspect of this elderly status is that I no longer really care about those petty annoyances which swirl surround me every day. Most delays, obstructions, even outright stupidities of action, hardly ever cause a blip on my ire-meter anymore. Instead, I’ve now acquired a very refined sense of the ridiculous which enables me to gleefully apply it with complete abandon whenever necessary, upon those who are the cause of such things, much to their chagrin and discomfort. Yes indeed, sometimes life does seem to deliver some rewards to those who wait…and live long enough to enjoy them!
I suppose what it really boils down to is that it’s all just a matter of attitude, and having a firm mindset in which “age” is somehow not consciously acknowledged, and that the best way to deal with it is to understand that, eventually, in the continuum of our existence, its ultimate ending still remains beyond an unknown horizon…somewhere…but…since our world is round not flat, such a horizon is not likely to materialize any time soon through those intervening fogs and mists we call…time; and that, at some point along that way, just as with our parents, grandparents, and other more remote kin, we too will then become part of that record we call…history. Nevertheless, such musings and contemplations should not be wasted on regrets for past failures, glories missed or lost, or even the many goals and objectives never achieved. The circumstances of how we’ve become who we are now, and how we’ve arrived at this moment in the continuum of our existence…are no longer relevant.
Thus, a thousand yesterdays have never been, nor will as many tomorrows bring greater merriments and joys, or deeper pains and sorrows than we’ve encountered before. In fact, we may yet encounter more of both before we’re done. Meanwhile, our remaining time may be better spent in the pleasures of a glass or two, sharing mellow amber dreams with others. Dreams which, while being tender fragile things by now, can still be cast upon those open seas of time that yet remains to us, to see how well these can voyage from rim to rim…till all is drunk and the bottom. found.
If this borders on the philosophical, with a somewhat Stoic flavor, that’s because it does… and has…because it’s just the natural progression of one’s perspectives which results from having lived longer than all those actuarial statistics have surmised. Besides, now that the needs of youthful non-reflective impetuous thoughts have long diminished in their intensities, exercising considered contemplative reflection seems a more appropriate gravitas for this elderly status of ours.

As for whatever Stoic flavor it may have, that comes from a long attachment to the value of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius as a proper guidance system for righteous living in the chaos of this modern world of ours. Even after almost two thousand years, it’s a hard one to beat, despite being translated and expressed in the inadequacies of English. I suspect, however, that his thoughts about such matters would be even more influential were I able to read them in their original Latin. Unfortunately, never having gotten much beyond…amo… amatis …amat… with Latin, the English versions of these will have to do.
Thinking more about it however while browsing through those English versions of his aphorisms and dictums, has led me to consider the most wickedly delicious notion of paraphrasing them into the crude vernacular used by the troglodytes of the Twitter World of Twits…and posting them there…just to see how their normal knee-jerk emotional reactions to anything…might be received by them. Probably with their usual inane blather…no doubt. Of course, we could justify such merry mischief-making as simply being a personal bit of ongoing sociological research into the declining quality of the customs and mores of our times.
If it seems that I’ve digressed from my theme here that’s not the case at all. It’s just another example of how an active elderly mind now and then adopts a free-form and circular logic mode of functioning, because it is no longer constrained by the imperatives of having to apply linear logic to whatever interactions it must have with others. Nevertheless, old habits don’t easily surrender to innovation, so some might say I’m now in a hybridized mode of mental functioning (or even possibly considered as just schizophrenic), by being linear whenever necessary, or circular, when not. Still, it does take some getting used to.
But the most difficult aspect I find to adapt to now, is when I look around but no longer see many of the familiar faces of all those I have known in my time…past acquaintances…old friends…former comrades in arms, kinfolk, and so many others besides. They’re all gone, and the few of those who are still around all seem to be rapidly fading away as well…while I’m still here…like one of those tall fir trees left standing alone…in a patch of clear-cut forest land.
It’s at such moments then that I realize I have, indeed, become not just “antique” but now also well-launched onto the pathway of becoming…archeological.
CENTURION