Milestones of aging

When I turned forty, I understood that I could no longer pretend to be a kid. Some of you may suggest the fact that I had a wife, four daughters, and a mortgage should have disabused me of that notion, but I will reply that you are merely clouding the issue with facts — we’re talking about self-perception, a realm where hard data has no purchase.

The next milestone was when I was introduced to my granddaughter Riley at Clovis Community Hospital. Becoming a grandparent sets off the aging alarms like few other things in this world, trust me. Even the marriage of her mother Amelia a few months prior hadn’t hit me with the same sort of emotional broadside. Holding a newborn is just more visceral, I think — you know on a deep level that you are in a life-changing moment.

Monday’s revelation took place on a light-rail train heading on the MAX line toward Beaverton Transit Center. I looked up from my reading of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (a book that was born to read on a commute, if ever one was) to see a young woman waving to me. She was offering me her seat in the crowded car. Oh dear. Did I really look that old and feeble? I was tired, I had bags under my eyes, my knees hurt, but still… I was really old now. Sure, this was a small thing both in time and import, but it still made me sad for a second. (My emotional priorities shifted strongly when I got to work and read the e-mail announcing the sudden death of a friend, but that is another story).

Eventually I was able to laugh at myself for this foolishness. I am not old, you know – my grandmother is still alive, for all love! Everyone knows that old is always 10-15 years older than one is at the moment. Besides, I got more sleep last night and I am moving a little better after a visit to the chiropractor. And most of all, I am alive, my wife and the best dog in the world are alive, and I have things to do. Let’s move on, shall we?

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