Old Jokes

Jokes and stories about old age fill my e-mail as friends and relatives feel inclined to send them along. Countless jokes and cartoons lampooning senior citizens. They are of a common theme and parody failing hearing and failing eyesight. Memory also is a favorite target. Since a majority, if not all, of these jokes originate with senior citizens, they cannot be called politically incorrect. Some are truly funny while others can only be characterized as mean spirited. No subject nor body part is sacred and it seems that at some indeterminate age, certainly beginning some time in the late 50s, they are discussed or depicted with wild abandon. Thus are depicted toothless, paunchy, flatfooted individuals who look on life with bewilderment; women whose breasts hang to their knees and men with bellies so big they no longer can see their feet, let alone their manhood. You know the ones, you have seen, and laughed at some yourself on occasion. It is, it appears, a time of self mockery. No other age group parodies itself with such vigor. I find it depressing.

I have heard various talking heads speak of this self-ridicule in a positive light; implying that we have accepted and are coping well with the aging process. I beg to disagree. The jokes and cartoons avoid the reality of aging and the permanence of its end. I find it all so annoying since I know that I have slowed, know that my eyesight is not what it should be. Yet, in my heart I know I can?t be that old. My thoughts tend to younger things. And I remember. Remembering, I know what I miss.

I miss the passion. I miss the passion of waking in the middle of the night and coupling with an intensity often lacking when both are fully awake. I miss the spontaneity of grabbing hands and running until breathless for no earthly reason. I miss the immortality of younger days.

I resent the fact that I have become cautious on a ladder. I used to climb to the roof without a thought. Now I make that journey only when absolutely necessary and fear lurks at the corners of my mind, especially if I have to work along the eaves. The fear may be justified. A sliding ladder and dangling half on, half off the roof awaiting ignominious rescue tends to give one a healthy respect in such matters. As a result, some tasks are long delayed as I use the excuse of not having enough time.

I used to think 35 the perfect age. At 35 you are old enough to be pretty well established in who you are and what you are doing. At the same time, you have come to realize that you actually were pretty stupid in your younger years. You now understand that you really don’t know it all. At 35, if you are wise, you are in reasonable physical shape and you can still consider yourself immortal.

I miss, I miss … the list could be as endless as those plaints of old age which intrude on my days. But even in this passing regret, there is an inner peace not possible in youth. There is the quiet joy of being with friends, of being with her, of becoming lost still in the scent of her hair, the same scent from days when time was new. There is the renewed satisfaction of reading a good book or of being curious enough to still want to learn new disciplines. There also still is the joy of running, the satisfaction of meeting self-set goals. As for climbing ladders, perhaps it is time to cede that task to someone else. Although it would give me distress, if someone must fall off the roof, I would prefer that it would be someone else’s body that plummets past the window. Realizing this, I often press the delete button without regret, knowing that the same joke, or one similar, will reappear in my e-mail queue.

As I set off on my morning run, I promise myself that I will not go quietly into that dark night.