Monday, November 24, 2008

Where's My Shawl, Mother?

As I get older, I'm finding that slowing down can be a good thing. It's not like we have a choice; while you certainly should do all you can to keep physically and mentally fit as the birthdays pile up, nature will usually throw up some speed bumps that tell you to take it down a notch. The funny thing is how different life can be when you switch the dial from "fast forward" to "play." It's like driving out to eastern Long Island on the local roads instead of using the Expressway; it may take you longer but you get to see a lot more along the way. This is a gradual process. You don't go from being a hyper, type A maniac to Captain Calm overnight, but you do start to see changes in your behavior.

One thing I observe is that you start paying more attention to your family. Not that you didn't before, but when you're working full time, the job produces a lot of stress. When you get home you want to decompress, and that's only natural. This need to restore your own equilibrium may cause you to not fully appreciate the fact that your family deals with stress too. The clues they may drop about needing your help or advice can easily get overlooked. It can also cause you to not share fully the joys and successes they experience. Old age may diminish some capabilities but I think it actually enhances your capacity for empathy.

Another change is the need to focus on your health. Again, not to say you didn't before; that's partly what helped you come this far. But now it seems like no week is complete without a visit to this or that doctor. It's like the old joke: "Guys still have their little black books, but all the names now have M.D. after them." I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, and I freely admit it. I smiled knowingly at the Seinfeld episode when George Costanza, after being examined by the doctor for a white spot on his face blurted out: "Is it Lupus!" The point here is better safe than sorry. Physical ills that you used to shake off need more attention now.

Diet becomes a big deal for seniors. I was blessed with an iron stomach and a very healthy appetite. Food has always been, and still is, one of my passions. Besides being married to an excellent cook, we also go out a lot more now that those fat social security checks are rolling in. If you watch it, there's no reason you have to survive on wheat grass and tofu. Eat what you enjoy, just less of it. Restaurant portions are ridiculous; eat half and take the rest home. Stop punishing yourself with sorbet and have the damn cannoli, but only as an occasional special treat. And for crying out loud, have a drink. A cocktail or glass or two of wine a day is actually good for you, and makes you much more pleasant to be around.

This next change has been hard for me, but I'm working on it. The guy who cuts you off without signaling; the store clerk with the attention span of a moth who asked you three times if you wanted sugar in your coffee; the garage mechanic with the dirty boots who left you a special memento of his presence on beige carpet in your car.... just let it go. I have this problem (tell us about it Jim) where I expect people to act in a certain way, like intelligent humans. I set up unrealistic expectations for my daily encounters with the public, and because of this, I am invariably disappointed and annoyed when they don't measure up. Start by expecting less of people and you will never be disappointed.

People wonder why I play golf in the winter. Why endure the cold when any idiot knows that golf is meant to be played in warmer weather? Well I'm not just any idiot. Most of us are city-dwellers and don't often get to spend a lot of time in the woods. With my golf game, I'm always in the woods, but while there I feel a closeness to nature that is almost indescribable. If you are able, you should always walk the golf course. Using a cart is like taking the Long Island Expressway.

As you walk over the crest of a hill on a fairway carpeted in green, and see the sun rising through the Autumn trees, with bright orange, red and yellow leaves crunching under your feet, you just know there is a higher power ordering the universe. The feeling you get easily compensates for being out in the cold, but more important, helps you forget about your golf score, a good thing in my case.

And finally, you start taking pleasure in little things that never mattered as much before. Sitting down with the newspaper and a good cup of coffee; rediscovering the books they tortured you with in high school; walking in the park and going out of your way to say "Good Morning" to the people you pass; making your grandchild laugh by putting Play Doh on your head; looking through your wedding album and being reminded how lucky you are that such a beautiful bride picked a guy like you... it's all good. Sure the aches and pains will be there in the morning, but the good news is so are you.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

No comments: