Growing Old

So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink,
Put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink.
Oh, it could be so nice growing old with you.

I want to grow old with you.

–Adam Sandler, “Grow Old with You”

Every year, the same thing happens. For six weeks The Wife lords it over me how I am older than she. I am old. She is not. Ha-ha.

Then today happens, and we’re the same age again. The taunts are forgotten for another 46 weeks.

The amusing thing about this, of course, is that aging can’t be prevented. We grow old whether we want to or not. The only way to keep it from happening is to check out early, and no thanks. I like it here.

So why do we tease people about getting old? All things considered, it beats the alternative.

The answer perhaps lies in the fact that most of this ribbing comes from young people. The young believe youth is the pinnacle of human achievement. Old people are gross, out of touch, lame, etc. To quote Miguel Ferrer’s character in Robocop: “He’s old, we’re young, and that’s life.”

Of course, Ferrer’s character is assassinated by Ronny Cox’s old guy — the subject of Ferrer’s mockery — which illustrates another of life’s essential truths: Young people don’t what the hell they’re talking about.

But the rest of the ribbing old people take comes from people not quite as old as they. The reason for this is simple: There are downsides to aging, and in a burst of schadenfreude, the teaser thinks, “Hey, at least I don’t have it as bad you!”

After all, aging hurts. You start waking up with pain you don’t understand. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for it. You just hurt somewhere. Ibuprofen doesn’t really help.

Suddenly, you can’t eat the way you used to. All that spicy food doesn’t like you as much as you like it. That third beer puts you to sleep instead of making you feel invincible.

Staying up late is next to impossible. Going up stairs leaves you winded. Running is a humorous concept and can only be undertaken following a lengthy warmup.

The middle-aged person who mocks someone older is doing so because she understands that this sucks, but someone else has it worse.

But if the body decays and betrays, there are some advantages to aging. Wisdom comes with experience. You start wondering how you are still alive, because it turns out young people are really stupid, and you used to be young.

You become more measured in your responses. You realize some things are really, really important, but most everything else is not. You wish you had all the energy you wasted in your youth, so you could spend it now on the things you recognize are actually worth worrying about.

Mostly, you learn to appreciate life for what it is — an amazing adventure you should ride for all it’s worth. Because it is short, and a lot of it gets misspent. You learn to be happy you’ve found the right person to grow old with and to smile when she teases you for six weeks about being younger.

Because Adam Sandler, of all people, is right: “It could be so nice growing old with you.”

So happy birthday to my no-longer-younger-than-me wife. May today be full of happiness for you, and may the next 46 weeks be filled with joy.

Then I’ll be older again, and you can go back to teasing me.

Here’s a birthday present for my dear wife.

 

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