On Turning Seventy-Eight

It’s been said that inside of every old man, there is a young man wondering, “What has happened here?” How did I get this old? Alan Balter shares his story of growing old gracefully after a 32 year career as a university professor, preparing teachers to work with children and adolescences with special needs.

On Turning Seventy-Eight

It’s been said that inside of every old man, there is a young man wondering, “What has happened here?”

He’s in there all right; in fact, we talk all the time. Not only that, I have a clear picture of what my inner man looks like. He’s six feet tall with a thick head of wavy black hair. His teeth are white and perfectly aligned, and his gums haven’t receded. He is lean and well-muscled at 170 pounds. His eyes are green without a hint of diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, or corneal erosion. He never says “Say that again” to his wife because his hearing is perfect. His upper body is V-shaped; his abdomen is rippled with muscles, and he can climb a flight of stairs without panting like a rabid dog.

He can play softball and touch football with his buddies, and he trains for long distance runs. His cholesterol level is 140; his blood sugar is 90, and his blood pressure is 110 over 60. He sleeps through the night without getting up four times to pee, and he doesn’t dribble on his pants when he does. There are no brown spots or unsightly warts on his face, and he has but one chin. Women, some considerably younger than he is, still give him appreciative glances.

He speaks fluently, never hesitating to search for the right word. He digests his food completely and is seldom bothered by excess bloating and gas. He tucks his shirt tails into his pants. He gets an occasional headache or stomach ache but isn’t concerned about brain or colon cancer. He doesn’t take pills, so he doesn’t have to worry about accidental overdoses or co-pays. Psoriasis has yet to break his heart, and best of all, he has no need for those intimacy dysfunction drugs.

In short, my inner man is amazingly similar to what I used to be. Young. And filled with strength, energy, and manliness.

handsome man

My inner man and I talk a lot, almost on a daily basis. We started our conversations when I turned fifty and an invitation to join the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) arrived in my mail box. “Hey! What is this?” I asked him.

“The folks at the post office must be confusing you with your dad,” he replied. You have the same last name, y’know.”

After I mailed back my application form, I looked at myself in the full length, bathroom mirror before showering. Always well-organized and systematic, I started my inspection from the top and moved downward.

Somehow, the bathroom mirror must have warped, because my forehead appeared higher on my head, and my hairline looked like an inverted U. Maybe my skin wasn’t as tight as it used to be, but those wrinkles on my face were surely due to smiling rather than aging.

A morsel of Monday’s rare roast beef was still wedged between a couple of my incisors. These teeth, as well as the others, looked longer than they used to. When I reached for the dental floss, I knocked over a dispenser of hair dye, the kind that is touted to eliminate gray hair gradually, leaving only the appropriate amount. My wife must have purchased it.

The real surprise came when I gazed upon the reflection of my chest and backside. I marveled at the cumulative effect that gravity had taken since I last looked. My chest had drooped to my belly, and my tush, once smooth and high slung, was wrinkled and had shifted to the south. It didn’t help when I saw that my navel had somehow expanded in depth and width and looked like it could provide storage space for a pint of blueberries. In season. The hyperbole is only mild.

A physician friend of mine, a man who has practiced more than fifty years, told me that people who are over 65 and wake up in the morning absent any aches and pains are dead. Hooray! I’m clearly still alive, because just about everything hurts. Nothing acute, mind you, but just bad enough to screw up the morning.

I’ve noticed, too, that the morning newspaper is using smaller print, and my friends and relatives have modulated their speaking voices, not that I ever asked them to do so. The wind behind me is mostly flatulence, and the feet below me trip over curbs, if not cracks in the sidewalk. Finding the right words or putting on my pants without leaning on a wall are daily challenges. Mosquitos bent upon sucking my blood run the risk of type two diabetes, and I’ve never really cared for shoulder length ear hair.

“Who cares?,” I asked my inner man. “If I want to, I can find doctors to restore my youth. I’m told there are now ways they can suck out your excess fat, transplant hairs to your head, and remove warts painlessly.

“It’s true, he said. “Or, if you’d rather, you can choose to accept the inevitable and grow old gracefully.”

I saw a greeting card recently that read, “Everyone is young once, and you’ve had your turn.” I figured it was written by an old guy who chose to grow old gracefully. I decided that it would be the mature thing to do.

handsome man

Now, at seventy-eight, I seldom speak with the young man inside of me. In fact, I’m almost positive he’s vacated the premises and moved in with some other maladjusted old curmudgeon. He was a good guy, and he taught me some very important things: the beauty of growing old with a woman I love more than my life; the light in a grandchild’s eyes when I pick her up; the sweet feelings of camaraderie with friends from my youth; and the joy of a career spanning forty years during which I learned so much from teaching others.

Fact is, it’s takes a while for the cup to fill and run over, so be patient and learn to live with the warts.

        ~ Alan Balter

Never Forget Your Inner Child

"Can your inner child come out and play?"

"I'm not so sure I have an inner child anymore, but I have an inner, uh, well, I forget what I was going to say. I have an inner ___________, oops, I lost it again."

"Hug you inner child at least once a day."

"My inner child is hungry, can I look at the children's menu please?

small boy sticking out tongue

Children and Kids

"Why to you call them toes now? You used to call them little piggies."

"What are you complaining about? You're 10 years old, you have a laptop, and iPad, a Blackberry, and you're on Facebook. When I was 10 years old I only had one thing to play with. It's called "OUTSIDE"!

"I wonder what my kids will tell their kids." "It was so rough back in my day that I didn't get a cell phone until 4th Grade, and sometimes the WI-Fi wouldn't work upstairs!"

"Sometimes I wish I had the wisdom of a 90 year old, body of a 30 year old, and the energy of a 3 year old."

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