Some New and Very Candid Thoughts On Getting Older

by Randy Elrod

I’ve been thinking. Yep, doing more of that these days. Especially this weekend. On Monday, May 1st, 2017, three short days from now, I will be fifty-nine years old.

On the cusp of a new era. One that I’ve always equated with old age. Somehow, saying you are sixty-something sounds so much more ancient and creaky than the fifties. Perhaps its because we hard-working, tax-paying Americans qualify for “retirement” in our sixties. I’m not sure.

As for me, I still feel young. For the past forty or so years, I’ve felt young. Since that time as a gangly and blissfully naive, teenage boy when I finally realized what being young meant. Up until that fateful day I was mostly just foolish. Occupied with snakes, and snails, and puppy dog tales. But then one day as with all young children-my family, my teachers, my church, and my country said—I had to grow up, for God’s sake.

Caving in to all that regretful admonition, I was forced to grow up, but somehow miraculously, I stubbornly decided I would never, ever grow old.

And then I blinked and I am almost sixty.

Various poets and artists call this season the autumn of our lives. If sixty is indeed the new forty, as our society tells us, in it’s desperate search for the fountain of youth and eternal life, then I suppose any good American would lust and revel in the gift our medical prowess has given us to live our middle-age over again.

Look at me in the eyes and listen carefully, if summer in poetic terms, denotes mid-life, the forties and fifties, then HELL NO! I do NOT choose to live two summers. One was enough. Bring on the wrinkles.

Those two decades, my forties and fifties—the first of this new millennium—represent for me (in Dickinsonian terms) the best of times and the worst of times. In Wilcoxian terms, they lasted a generation. Been there. Done that. Don’t want to repeat it. I’ve lived the dry hot summer of my life. My roots are deeper, dammit. And now I’m ready for the comforting breath of cool autumn breezes to raise chill bumps on this aging skin. I’m ready for harvest time.

Thirsty for new wine to hydrate my soul. The 2017 vintage. I’m thinking it’s gonna be a very good year. The vines of my life have roots that have somehow grown deeper through the rocky and dry times of the past twenty or so years. There’s something about old vines grown in rocky terrain.

Hmm, maybe I’m a Zinfandel. Perhaps it is no coincidence that one of my favorite Zins is called Rockpile Road. It’s a wine that is certainly not for everyone. It’s a big, lusty glass of red wine, warm and heady, with extraordinarily ripe berry, currant and mocha flavors.

Could be. Harvest time. The autumn of my life. I hope I am a red, red wine—one that gets better with age.

And then comes winter. Hah, that’s another story. One that is hopefully even more layered and even more hopeful. I must admit this sixtieth milestone has caused me to ruminate about what follows winter. Could I be so idealistic to think that another spring will follow? Wouldn’t want to do another summer-but spring? Hmmm. Could there really be a do-over? An afterlife? A heaven?

That’s what I’ve been led to believe. But with every passing year, I painfully realize that almost everything I’ve been taught is just not true. Life has proven it wrong. And there have been no gods miraculously showing up to prove otherwise. My faith is parched and weak, cold and empty—but somehow my sixty-year-old soul remains big and lusty, and warm and heady. New wine in an old skin.

For now, I choose to gratefully embark upon the autumn of my life. The sixties and the seventies. I want to age another twenty years or so before I pop the cork and sit back and savor the wine of my life during the winter years. In the words of Steinbeck, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

My muse Gina and I have been “blessed” to find ourselves living OF the land on the outskirts of civilization as most people know it. A fifty-five acre primordial garden, where the hell so many people had predicted for us, has now become a beautiful and magical beginning. Our own version of heaven on earth. Maybe karma is real.

When the wind blows just right (from the southeast to be precise), we can hear the eternal hum of progress. Interstate 40. Eighteen wheelers, motorcycles, cars of all make and description, filled with people going who knows where, to do something vitally important they won’t remember a few days from now. Tempers flaring, kids fighting, babies squalling, and partners not speaking.

Weary tourists rushing to escape reality, workers frenetically late for jobs, and monster truck drivers with napoleon complexes trying to beat a deadline-all within several inches of one another careening seventy-five miles an hour down a twelve-foot swath of poorly constructed concrete in vehicles of hastily constructed metal, plastic, and rubber.

On those days (most days the wind blows from the northwest and our land seems in the middle of nowhere, dead quiet except for the cacophony of nature) when I hear the hypnotic hum of traffic, I smile. Truthfully, I suppose it is a sinfully smug, self-righteous, all-knowing acknowledgement, that it could me me out there on that highway to hell. A nostalgic remembrance of an ever more distant and fading past.

Living out here in the wilderness the two of us have found ourselves increasingly occupied (now that we have carved out our land, built our buildings, and are settling down) with pursuits I had always equated to old people. Bird watching, observing and commenting on the weather, reveling in the change of seasons, wondering what kind of tree has a certain texture of bark and shape of leaf, planting gardens, taking leisurely walks, delighting in wildlife sightings, and basically ignoring the clock.

We have long, luxurious coffee hours on the front porch, and even longer hedonistic cocktail hours at five o’clock. Er, sometimes four o’clock, well okay, maybe even three o’clock. And we talk to each other. Face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart, soul to soul. We talk about the afore-mentioned occupations of weather, wildlife, birds, trees, and gardens—but we also talk philosophy, theology, existentialism, and sex.

We talk about memories, about families, about frustrations, sometimes so fast the other can’t break in. Stories from our past, about our children or lack thereof—she, the spectacular joy of two sons and five beautiful, unique, and vibrant grandchildren.

We walk around stark naked. Inside and out. A luxury afforded by a home tucked in the epicenter of fifty-plus acres. Comfortable in our own skin and with the skin of each other. Knowing however, that should someone younger ever happen upon us, they would flee screaming in horror and revulsion.

Did I mention we talk about sex? And we don’t just talk. If I had known it could be so good at this age, I would have hit the fast-forward button in my twenties and buffered directly to now. I suppose I’ve always been a late bloomer. It’s great to be almost fifty-nine and still feel like eighteen. Yes, sir! I could go on in vivid, luscious detail, but this would become an erotic tale-and you would be jealous and I would be prideful. So let’s leave these ejaculations and conclude this rambling essay.

There are also times now that we actually sit around and think. Dr. Jaco Hamman last week at our re:Create gathering said that boredom and solitude leads to imagination and creativity. An extended coffee hour on the front porch as Gina got ready to run an errand led to this little dissertation. I suppose Dr. Hamman might be on to something.

The sounds of silence. Our hearts knitted together, the simmering quiet like a telepathic mind warp of contentedness and soul whispers.

Wow! I just wrote that sentence. It is brand new. Never been written before. A creation. Don’t believe me? Cut and paste it into Google. Perhaps if we all had a bit of autumn in our lives, there would be far less plagiarism. Now that’s a thought.

I’ve been thinking. Yep, doing more of that these days. Especially this weekend. On Monday, May 1st, 2017, three short days from now, I will be fifty-nine years old.

On the cusp of a new era.

2 Responses to “Some New and Very Candid Thoughts On Getting Older”

  1. Robert Comeaux April 29, 2017 at 02:55

    I am glad to say that I am the beneficiary of two wise musings of yours before your 59th birthday in one day! You have always inspired me to think deeply and ask questions, and once again you have done just that. I so resonate with your frustration with Enlightenment rationalism, and I strive daily to combat logic with mystery. Thank you for always challenging me deeper into the mystery. I wish you all the best in this year, and I look forward to the next opportunity we have to sit down together to continue the Great Conversation.

    • Thanks so much, Robert. Your words are an encouragement to me. I’m so proud of you!


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