December 5, 2001

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


In a little over a month I am having one of those birthdays. You know what I mean. It is one of those birthdays that end in a zero. Most of the time these birthdays that are divisible by ten are not any big deal. For instance I don't even remember my tenth birthday and when you turn 20 it is meaningless because you really want to be 21.

Thirty was probably the first birthday that bothered me. There is something about being in your twenties that is special. First off, it is nice to be out of school and on your own. Further, everything works. By that I mean you can push your body to the limit and mostly get away with it. I can remember working all kinds of overtime and not thinking a thing about it. Tasks such as buying a house, starting a family are daunting, but when you are in your twenties you just expect success. So reaching the golden age of 30 can be a shock to some.

However, I found out that after a week or two of being thirty it was not all that bad. You can still work long hours and still have energy to mow the lawn or some other family task at the end of the day.

It is when you become forty that I felt that physically the direction had quietly shifted. It is not like everything started to head downward. Life is not like that. It is more like the way August is. In August some of the best days of summer are to be had. Lots of sun, warm temperatures, but the hint of decline is present with the ever shortening daylight. On average we loose 2 minutes of daylight a day in August. Two minutes does not seem like much time. That is how my years of being forty something have felt.

First it was the old waist line kept expanding. Next went close vision. For me the loss of close vision was almost as if a light had been turned off. Thank heaven for progressive lenses. They look like normal glasses and for the most part they can restore your close vision. Another slow change is the old hairline. For many women it seems the battle of the gray starts in their forties. I only wish I had gray hair instead of watching my forehead go back and back and back.

Besides all the physical changes that happen in our bodies there are other signs that we are becoming our parents. A pointed example for me was my poor wife burned herself when some hot oil splattered onto her hand. She quickly put her hand in cold water and then later thought about putting on some medicine. The kids remembered we had Solarcaine in the medicine cabinet and brought it to her. It worked for a few minutes and then the pain came back. I happened to glance at the bottle and thought to myself, "This bottle looks old." Looking at the bottom it had an expiration date of 1995. My middle daughter said cheerfully, "Wow, I was in 5th grade when that was good." To her that medicine was an antique and she was right.

One of the hallmarks of an old person is that they tend to have old things in their house. Now I am not talking about antiques, because anyone can have those. I am talking about stuff that shows time has definitely passed a lot. A good example is a home that still has avocado carpeting in the living room. It is a color that has long lost its beauty. Another sign is finding a medicine cabinet full of old over the counter medicine that you never hear advertised on TV or the radio. I always thought that was a sign of getting too old when I would see those things in my grandparent's medicine cabinets. Now I find those same odd objects in my own medicine cabinet.

Both my wife and I have partially rebelled against this creeping ageism by cleaning out some parts of the house that were starting to look like a museum. She recently shed several garbage bags of clothing that were definitely dated. I recently got rid of a TV set that had stopped working when the Solarcaine expired. Last year I gave away the majority of our old 33rpm records. We didn't have a turntable that worked and even if it did, who wants to change a record every 30 minutes. We are spoiled by our 500 CD player where you can listen for approximately 600 hours without repeating the same CD.

I know that trying to avoid the fact of turning two score and ten can get a little goofy. I have seen those ads for spray on hair, money back diet pills, laser surgery and the like. One can try and reclaim one's youthful looks, but only at the risk of looking as bizarre as Michael Jackson.

I think it is far easier to try and keep your surroundings looking fresh than restoring one's youthful appearance. Those nutrition centers are full of pills you can buy that will promise some sort of miracle. I would imagine if you could afford to buy all of them you wouldn't have room in your stomach to each any real food. You would also, probably kill yourself if you took every herb that is available.

The pursuit of a fountain of youth has been the dream of mankind for thousands of years. If something really worked it would be shouted from the rooftops. We would all look like teenage rock stars instead of what we are.

It is a fact that what we can't get we pretend to be able to get. I think that secret has made cosmetic and nutrition stores rich for years. At twenty we do not believe we will ever sag and wilt. At forty we can see it coming with eyes wide open. At filthy I am starting to think it is time to just close our eyes and hope for the best. Just as the color of our eyes was determined by genetics, so is our first wrinkle. I would warn my kids that this is so, but they wouldn't believe me. They think they are posed for a great adventure and so they are. The only problem is that for every chapter there is a user's fee that is not refundable.


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