Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rocked By The Ages

The human mind, despite its many infinite possibilities, is distinctly unsuited to dealing with aging.  It isn't that the mind cannot cope with the idea of getting old; it's that the mind willingly gives in to the person inside the body and agrees to participate in the deception.

For who among us does not have a mind that tells us that we feel younger than we really are?  I am 56 years old, but I can easily tell myself that I am 35.  And I can believe that.

But you can't spend time in Florida, at least in the part where I am, and not confront your age.  The issues of aging are everywhere--the super-slow cars that you can get stuck behind on the road, the other customers in the stores you frequent, the ubiquitous consignment stores and Salvation Army stores and Goodwill stores with their vast inventories of the leftover items from ended or downsized lives, the "retirees" who work the jobs that you'd expect to see teens working anywhere else.  This is a perpetually old place.  The names just change, year to year.

This is a place where when I take my children to a movie, the ancient woman at the box office says, "That will be twenty dollars," and while I hand her the money, I'm wondering how $20 divides by three, only to find out that the three of us did not pay the same ticket price.  My children's tickets cost $7.50, while mine cost $5.00.  Because I received, without asking, the "Senior Discount."  You have to be 62 to receive that discount; I am 56.  It was assumed.  Ouch.

The human mind, at least mine, also grapples unsuccessfully with the context of aging.  By this, I mean, that we can't keep up with who the elderly are around us because we move ever closer to their ranks.  For example, because of my parents, especially my father who is still living and in the upper ranks of the elderly population age wise, I have this set notion that elderly people I see around me are veterans of The Great Depression and the Big War.

But then, I was out walking the other morning and this old guy zips by me on his racing bike.  He's got all of the gear--racing helmet, spandex, tight shirt.  Except that the shirt has the album cover for Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced? On the back.

You think that didn't jar me?

Wait a second, my mind said.  If that guy is about 65, then he was 21 in 1969, the year of Woodstock (the real one).  He might have gone, might have dropped acid, probably had a bunch of Beatles albums, certainly would have been drafted, might have served in Vietnam or participated in a bid protest on a college campus, read Ken Kesey.  That's the guy riding past me on his bike, living, or at least staying, at a retirement community in Florida, where people play golf and sit around at Panera in groups to talk about their health issues, going out with his wife and another couple to get an early supper.

Of course, we get these reminders when our favorite rock stars have their birthdays, but who thinks of them as real people?

But see how the years have snuck past me, us?  How I lost context while I was living it?   The last time I overheard a party social at the condo community, they were still dancing to Sinatra.  What's happening now?  Are old folks dancing to "Crimson And Clover" and "American Woman" at these affairs, like some kind return to Shindig and American Bandstand?

I'm not ready for old people to act in ways that I don't consider ways that old people should act.  It's too unsettling for my mind.  And we all realize that is because I want to be able to keep my distance between me and what I consider old.  Maybe you're the same way.

I got a taste of it at a wedding a few weeks ago, when the singer in the wedding band who stepped up to sing "Brick House," was, again, a guy who had to be in his 60's, who, as one of many voices in the band, had probably always been the one who sang "Brick House."  But now, watching him sing it to and with a bunch of sorority girls and a young bride, there was no trick that my mind could play that could convince me that his age or mine weren't what they really are.  And I had to turn away.

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