On the awkwardness of aging

John Hohn

Now that I am past age 70, awkwardness has invaded my body. When I dress in the morning, I balance on one leg and put my boxers on one leg at a time. It helps improve a sense of balance. I could try to put both legs into my shorts at the same time, but I feel certain that would not turn out well. I couldn’t do that when I was 18. My refusal to be seated to accomplish the task is an early victory in the day.

Each morning, I try to remember what I had for dinner the night before and what I watched on TV. It sounds like a simple exercise. If I can’t get it right away, I stay with it until I do. I remember nine times out of ten. Memory is a muscle. It needs to be exercised. Use it or lose it. Besides, mentioning the day after how good a meal was gains a lot of points with the cook.

Elders struggle to understand how to operate an ATM or soft drink machine. Young people walk right to these gadgets and—slam, bang—they’re done. But their elders ponder the operating instructions as if they were deciphering an ancient Sanskrit manuscript. My first option is to avoid new gadgets. I don’t want to watch the Vikings lose on a postcard size TV screen while I am walking the dog. Who decided all this technical crap was important? Life needs to be slowed down. Our moments need to be savored.

It’s not my fault a new gadget fails to conform to my idea as to how it should work. Every encounter is epic man-versus-machine. I engage with mortal dread. I am resigned to losing the first several rounds in the struggle. Patience is my best weapon. The device is limited to what it can do. It is trying to impose its will. I resist, quietly accepting the conflict as challenge to master the new and exotic.

I have adopted a few simple guidelines that help keep me happy:

Stay physically fit. Toning up helps a person look better. Get buff, baby! Flab sags; muscles don’t. Set up a regimen with a trainer and stick with it. Light weights. Lots of reps. Don’t be afraid of the Harley-Davidson types at Gold’s. They’ll admire you. Yes, you will get tired. So take a nap. In three months, your workouts will energize you. You will have more stamina.

Stay intellectually engaged. Reading is often too passive. Play chess. Play bridge or poker. Try out for a play. Sell stuff on eBay—then your kids won’t need to throw it all out after your funeral.

Volunteer. Every community needs helpers with all kinds of programs. You’ll get back more than you give.

Consider different viewpoints. The person who is not open to new ideas, whether in politics, religion, science, or art, is tiresome. Work to understand an opposing point of view. Allow yourself to doubt, even your religious convictions. Think your way through to new understandings. Your understanding and your perspective will grow.

Stay in love. Do something loving for your partner every day. Thank your partner for simple things like getting the car gassed up or doing the laundry. Do something before being asked. The reaction itself is rewarding. Stay in love and every day will be happier.

The scary thing about being older is that the time one has left becomes easily measurable. At 78, I could live another 12 years, or the same amount of time it took me to go through grade school and high school. If I lived another 20 years, I will have survived longer than my first marriage. A lot happened in my life during those periods—happy, sad, trying, and rewarding. Retirement does not mean withdrawing, but staying on the attack.

Time goes faster as we get older. Time also goes faster when we are happier. If it is going to go by faster, all the more reason to use it wisely.

Originally from the Midwest, John J. Hohn, 78, lives in Winston-Salem with his wife, Melinda. A writer throughout his life, he has devoted his time since retiring in 2007 to writing poetry, fiction and reviews. His books, “Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds” and “Breached” are available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback format and can be ordered at Barnes & Noble bookstore. Find out more at www.jjhohn.com.


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