Getting old is something I think about on occasion. I’m not exactly doddering — I turn 40 later this year — but every so often something will remind me that I’m not as young as I used to be. Getting tired a little more easily than I expect, say, or a longtime favorite food causing a case of tummy trouble. Or hearing a song I remember from teenage years … only they’re playing it on the “oldies” station. That’s always fun. One of the local supermarkets plays “hits of the ’80s” over the PA, and every time I go in there it’s like having a flashback to high school. (Not good flashbacks either — high school wasn’t the happiest time in my life.) So it’s often in the back of my mind: I’m growing older …
Today that thought got moved to the front of my mind. Rather forcefully.
See, I wear glasses, thick ones — have since I was a little kid. I’ve had my current pair for about six years, but in the last few months I’ve been having to slide them down to the end of my nose in order to read small print. (I’ve got them there right now, since WordPress’ standard font is about 9 point.) So I figured it was probably time to update my prescription and get a new pair. No problem; I make an appointment with Dr. Miranda. This is easy, as:
- Dr. Miranda’s wife is the office manager of the congregation the Supermodel and my kids attend, and he and I know each other on at least a nodding basis.
- Dr. Miranda got my daughter set up with her first pair of glasses, and her second pair after she broke the first pair … and we expect to go back when she breaks these too. (Notice I said “when.” She’s Daddy’s girl.)
I went in this morning, and he checked my eyes … twice. I guess that should have aroused my suspicions, but hey, I was just rolling with it. Until he said I probably needed … brace yourself for this … you sitting down? Please, sit down …
Whooooooa. I confess, the thought had crossed my mind a few times when I was having to read while mouth-breathing because my glasses were pinching shut my nose, but I figure that was something I’d have to deal with well down the road, like when I turned 50 or so. Not at 39. Dr. Miranda reassured me, saying he’d done bifocals for children at times. But I also noticed he didn’t actually say … “the B-word” until I did first — before that, he just talked about “multifocal lenses.” He understands the stigma attached.
So that’s big. I mean, I’ve had some gray hair on my temples for a couple of years now, but I was sort of looking forward to that (It supposedly being a sign of wisdom and all). My creaky back and legs aren’t a big deal, since I was born with club foot and a weird spine curvature; the only difference is in the degree of discomfort. And my triglycerides are high, so I take fish-oil capsules. But bifocals … I mean, my mom has only worn bifocals for a few years, and she’s old enough that (in Hugh “Wavy Gravy” Romney’s hilarious phrase) the federal government now pays her to breathe. This is serious!
And yet I’m laughing as I write this. Because while it’s a big deal, it’s not a particularly frightening one. After all, why are we so uncomfortable in Western society with getting old? Answer: because for most of us, getting old is the process by which we eventually get dead. And death scares a lot of folks.
But it doesn’t scare me much. I mean, I’m not seeking death out, saying “let’s party, Reaper baby!” I want to see my kids grow up, to enjoy playing with grandchildren, to watch the Supermodel still stopping traffic and getting whistles from construction crews when she’s 70 (and she probably will, knowing her). Even outside my family, I have things I hope to witness before I croak: a widespread reformation in the American church, the Giants winning a World Series, a film adaptation of “Ender’s Game,” that sort of thing. And besides, the point where you’re actually finishing up the dying process is supposed to usually be unenjoyable — as Woody Allen once said, I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be around when it happens. So, no rush.
On the flip side, though, it doesn’t bother me that one day this lumpy, semi-functional body will be turned into Purina Worm Chow. Because I’m confident that I will be in Heaven with God, wearing a new and imperishable body and with my soul cleaned up like it’s never been cleaned before. I will be seeing Him face to face and (as the Muslims say) praising Him with wisdom. That’s something to look forward to, yes? And it seems like dying in order to get there isn’t too bad a tradeoff. I mean, it’s not like life is ending, after all — it’s just changing for the better. That’s the promise the Bible makes, and I’m stickin’ to it.
So, gray hairs? Fine with me — I figure I’ve earned them. Can’t walk as far as I used to? Good, more time to catch up on my reading. Fish oil? Hey, if it comes in pill form, I can handle it. And in a few weeks, I will be sporting a brand-new pair of bifocals. All the better to see you with, my dear. If life begins at 40 (as my friend Geri says), I say, okay, bring it on! My new specs are on the way, and I’m gonna be ready.
Now if only they’d stop playing Duran Duran on the supermarket PA …