Another Trip Around the Sun
Ah, spring, beloved spring is here. The weather is warming up, new flowers are blooming, and baseball has returned. Many people feel a sense of rebirth, purity, and hope. Love is in the air. Remember what Tennyson said about this season: “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Perhaps this new season will encourage our elected and appointed city officials and those that write angry letters and posts to this paper to call a temporary “time out” in the battles that roil our fair city. To smell the roses as it were. Okay, that’s probably not going to happen, but one can hope. It is spring after all.
We should go outdoors more and say hello to May, face to face. A University of Michigan study found that being outside broadens a person’s mind, leaving them open to creating new thoughts.
But for me, spring comes with a price. It means another year has passed. About the time of the equinox, I had to call the person who manages my investments with a question about a tax document. He said he could email the document to me if I wanted it immediately. I said regular mail would be fine—my credo being the less technology the better. He responded by saying, “Oh, I understand. A lot of my elderly clients feel the same way.”
There it was. For the first time in my life, at least to my face, I had been referred to as “elderly.” I am 71 but can pass for 69 on a good day. Just look at the photo that accompanies this column. Alright, alright, the photo is five years old. Still, “elderly?” I am not afraid to drive at night, I play tennis and ride an exercise bike, and can still handle my liquor. Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.
Still, there are facts that cannot be denied. There are a lot more miles behind my cart than in front of my horse. The average life expectancy of an American male is 76. Brothers and sisters, I can see that sign post not too far down the road. I am heartened only slightly by the fact that men in South Orange County live longer than the average American male.
Yes, spring is a wonderful time of year, but it means the earth has traveled yet again around the sun and my own personal sunset is that much closer. What waits for me beyond that sunset I know not, so I look to the here and now.
I take stock of my physical condition. I avoid mirrors when my shirt is off. The only abs that would be reflected are the abnormal bulges above my belt. My medicine cabinet is overstocked. In 2013, pulmonary embolisms nearly killed me, so every dinner comes with a blood thinner. I have battled two types of irregular heartbeats: A-fib and premature ventricular contractions. Ten trips to the hospital, beta blockers, and acupuncture keep those at bay. I see an oncologist because of low gamma globin levels. I see a number of other health professionals, but you get the picture.
Because of bad knees, when I run on the tennis court my opponents tell me it resembles Captain Ahab moving rapidly on the deck of the Pequod. They say, “Jim, switch to pickle ball. It is so much easier on the body.” This, I will never do. My tennis racquet will never be turned in for a pickle paddle or whatever it is called. I will go down swinging, probably literally.
Yes, spring is a wonderful season, but for me it is bittersweet. I am not middle-aged anymore. Seventy is not the new 50, at least not for my body, and I am staring old man winter square in the face.
For me there is just one way to handle this: Follow the advice of the poet Dylan Thomas who wrote:
“Do not go gentle into that good night…
“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
I will ignore the fact that he drank himself to death at 37.
So, I will keep swinging the racquet as long as I can and return the love given to me by those special people in my life and try not to worry about my own sunset.
It is another spring in Laguna Beach and it is beautiful outside for the young and elderly alike.
James Utt is the author of “Laguna Tales and Boomer Wails.” He is glad he was not born a hundred years ago. The average life expectancy of a male in 1920 was 54.