“I am in the prime of senility.” Joel Chandler Harris
There is a lot not to like about getting older- most of which you can’t begin to appreciate until you experience it. Part of the problem is that it happens so damn slowly that you never notice that you can no longer run like a gazelle until suddenly you discover that you need a cane to walk. Somehow those tiny and gradual diminishments of your abilities just escape notice until you are way over the hill..
It’s the same with pain. When was it that I accepted pain as a normal part of daily life. It sure wasn’t when I was 20. I don’t think it was 40 or even 60. I just know that along the way I routinely accepted pain as normal. Excusers like to tell you that the negatives of aging are more than made up for by increased wisdom and judgment. Excusers don’t know shit!
In truth there is nothing golden about those vaunted golden years. You finally reach a stage in life where you don’t have to work and now that you have the time discover that you no longer have the physical ability to do anything that is any fun. In spite of all the hype saying how wonderful old age can be, it is a constant battle to hold on to whatever physical strength, coordination and mental power you have left and then deal with the pain that is your constant companion. The biggest problem in your golden years is finding a reason to get out of bed each morning when you know that each moment will bring pain and that everything you do puts you at risk for injury which may end what remains of your independence.
With all of this loss, where is the upside of the aging equation? Is there any glimmer of gold in those senior moments? I confess that this is a challenge. I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy, eager to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and keep smiling as I drown in shit. Even a positive guy like me get troubled when the problems get piled higher and deeper. So in this final lap of life, I finally start to understand appreciate God’s gift to the aging and infirm- senility.
I always used to view senility with fear and dread. I insisted that the last thing I wanted to lose was my mind. I couldn’t image life with a fuzzy, unfocused and confused mental state. I would proudly tell people to shoot me as soon as my mind started to go. Today I see things differently. Everything is relative and when pain becomes the normal order of things, clarity and focus suddenly become secondary goals. Clear headed focus no longer seems so important when it means that you feel every ache and throb. Drifting into a happy fog no longer seems like a tragedy.
Then there are the ancillary benefits., When your mind loses its claim on the here and now of limitations, it can wander at will into the past and explore experiences both real and imaginary. Maybe you can’t walk to the mailbox any more but in your mind’s eye you can climb Mt. Everest. And you can do it with no fear of death or injury. With my new-found appreciation of senility I am only just beginning to explore the possibilities.
Old age may not be golden but it certainly it preferable to the alternative. There isn’t much left to enjoy once your good looks are gone along with your strength and focus and pain is your constant companion. So long as your mind remains sharp it keeps you aware every day how much you have lost. It is only when senility fuzzes that judgment and blurs the perception of reality that old age becomes bearable. Forget the wrinkled face that stares back at you from the mirror. Ignore those aching knees and the walker you need to keep from falling on your face. Get yourself comfortable and drift to some better reality. Facts be damned. I’m ready for senility.