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In our youth we give little regard to our body’s ability to heal the damage we inflict to ourselves on a daily basis. That wellspring of resilience is only so finite. We run as fast as we can, jump as high as possible, hold our breath until it hurts, wrestle, fight, and have accidents. That’s just during normal play. In our hurting and healings we succumb quickly to the false notion that we could go on like that forever. The wisdom dawns very slowly that we are aging. By the time we realize we are no longer “forever-young”, we wrench a hard look back and wonder how we ever survived.

Growing old is the equivalent of turning a light dimmer down slowly. The eventual darkness marks the final threshold between life and death. The future accelerates towards us and we hope at least lightly that the path there will follow a smooth curvature of time. The truth is that it never does. Youth induced damage turns the contact plates of our life’s dimmer control into a set of snaggle-toothed cogs. Every so often, along the way, a tooth here and there falls out.

That fall from a tree so long ago, or that long forgotten fight, maybe that busted knee you can’t remember the game score from, or that horrid summer cold you thought would never end, the damage incurred somehow becomes a weather barometer. With each change of the seasons, or even just a sudden gust of colder air, the pain chimes in to remind you of long forgotten escapades. Each episode becomes an endurance that saps more and more out of you. Medicines that might have worked well while you were young fail by the wayside. You struggle to maintain your personality. You figure out why elders always seemed so cranky. Though you may not have resolved to admit you have joined them, you know all too well how much closer you are to becoming one of them. Aging does not ever discriminate like wealth and vanity do.

I am an old man. I cling to the memories of the pleasures I enjoyed in my youth. I endeavor to maintain my enjoyment of as many as I can hold onto as possible. I started out with the possibilities in my hands like so many grains of sand. Over the years I have relinquished many pleasures; some to geographies, some to changes in personal taste, some to peer pressure, some to ignorance, some to popular opinion, and of course some to changes in laws. The last few grains I have are embedded as deeply as I can get them into the blood, sweat, and the tears at the heart of a proverbial clenched fist. Though God may brush them off with the twitch of a minor eyelash, the angel of death will have to work up a mean sweat before he gets even a single atom.

I may have used and abused this body but the gift of it was meant to be enjoyed. I rather think God would have us live short happy lives instead of long regretful ones.