Duffer: the woes of growing old

Growing older is no picnic… trust me
Rod Perry
June 05, 2018
By Rod Perry
Duffer: the woes of growing old
Photo: Getty Images
I can still vividly recall the day I turned 10. It was my first milestone birthday and was a big deal for me. If someone asked me my age, I proudly said I was 10, as in two digits. My life as a single digit youth was over.

And then there were several other milestone birthdays to come, all of which I looked forward to. Thirteen was next. I was finally a teenager and no longer a child. At 16 I could apply for my driver’s licence. At 18 I could vote and legally get into R-rated movies without adult accompaniment. At 19 I could legally drink and purchase alcohol. At 20 I became a young man and said goodbye to being a teenager.

Fast-forward several decades. I’m now in the latter stages of my 50s and have long given up looking forward to these “milestone” birthdays. The realization that there is less time ahead of me than what I’ve left behind makes me wish I could virtually stop time and perhaps stretch a year into four or five years.

Unfortunately, each passing year seems to go by quicker than the previous one.

In body, I’m in my late 50s. In mind, I’m somewhere between 35 and 40. To this day, I might see someone get behind the wheel of a car that catches my eye, and I’ll say to my wife, “Check out the cool car that old guy is driving.” She may happen to know the individual and will respond, “Old guy? He’s about 10 years younger than you.”

I guess I’m the old guy, even though I don’t feel it. I’m sure if I were a fly on the wall, I’d be hearing references made towards me as being an “old guy.”

Looking back at some of my other milestone birthdays, turning 30 wasn’t such a big deal. That number always seemed to me as being associated with a certain level of maturity, and that I might be taken a little more seriously by those who were senior to me.

Mind you, I still remember the adage, “Never trust anyone over 30.”

I dreaded 40 because – to me – it represented the gateway to middle age and it had crept up to me much more quickly than I thought it might. I also seemed to turn grey virtually overnight before I was even a couple of years into my 40s.

Turning 50 was just more salt being rubbed into the wound.

Sixty is going to arrive before I know it, and this milestone scares the crap out of me. It means that at the midpoint of my 60s I’ll become – I can barely bring myself to say it – a senior citizen.

I’ve always wondered at what age I’ll have to reach before I can honestly say I have “one foot in the grave.” Will it be 70, or perhaps 80? It’s not something I really wish to dwell on.

The late, great comedian Jack Benny had the right idea, having never aged beyond 39.

With age comes a breakdown of the body. Your eyes start to fail and suddenly you’re wearing glasses. Your hearing starts to falter and you’re outfitted with hearing aids. Arthritis sets in for many of us along with such other conditions as high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. You’re taking pills for all sorts of things on a daily basis.

The Flintstone vitamins you enjoyed as a child have given way to a variety of horse pills that are meant to keep your medical conditions in check.

Even though we’re all getting older, many of us will take measures to conceal our real age and attempt to fool others into thinking we’re much younger than we actually are. Hair dye, hairpieces, makeup and even plastic surgery are among the band-aid solutions to which we’ll resort in order to hold firm to an age we wish we could be and hope to project to others.

In general, women are much more vain than men. Men don’t wear makeup… at least none of the men I know do. Women, on the other hand, cake it on in layers – seemingly sometimes with a putty knife – in an effort to mask their wrinkles and give their skin a “glow.” I’ve seen some of these women without makeup and they’re barely recognizable. I’ve also seen many women clearly in their 70s who have uniformly blonde hair that you know came out of a bottle. Who are they trying to kid? There are men who are just as guilty, especially with the rugs they glue to their scalp. Even if you’ve only just met these guys, you know they’re wearing a piece because it appears as an island of natural colour amidst a sea of grey.

British poet and playwright Robert Browning once said, “Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.” Was he referring to all the cool toys we get to play with in our twilight years: canes… walkers… wheelchairs?

I think hockey hall of famer Bobby Hull expressed aging best when he said, “Getting old sucks!”

I used to joke about getting old and all the things that seem to go with it. A loss of fashion sense, wearing Depends and having all sorts of weird medical tests seemed to be par for the course. These things are coming my way and I’m not sure how much longer I can fend them off.

Rod Perry, aka Duffer, is a Niagara-based freelance writer.

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