more on aging

Clevedale front porch, 5-30-17

On a sultry South Carolina afternoon, following a hyper-busy, exhilarating, but also enervating past two weeks at our bed and breakfast and near the end of a day of chores (this demonstrably repetitive reality is why I term my retirement “my rehirement”), I plop my aching body into a comfy rocking chair. Sipping from a glass of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc, I consider that in a week or so, I will reach my 65th birthday (which, in truth, means that I simultaneously will have completed my 65th year and will enter my 66th year in this world). In light of this life’s milestone, at least, as humans reckon time, I contemplate mine aging (truth to tell, daily I reflect, not morbidly, but rather matter-of-factly, on this inexorable existential state of being).

Three immediate thoughts…

One, I don’t like aging. (Who does?) I’d prefer that my body was as supple, my mind and vision as sharp, my potentialities as boundless as my imagination as in my yesteryears.

Two, this said, I accept aging. I am neither angry about it nor discontent with it. Verily, there are moments of gleeful recognition that only an older one can know.

Last October, I went to the hospital for a pre-op visit in preparation for my November colon surgery. The intake nurse, a 30-something, bright-eyed, warm-hearted, highly-skilled, and unreservedly kind soul, among many questions, asked me, “Mr. Abernathy, do you have any pain?” Though I understood her intent in seeking to discern whether I was experiencing any discomfort in the subject area of my procedure, I couldn’t restrain myself from bursting out in raucous laughter. She smiled, I surmised, waiting, wanting to be let in on the joke. I replied, “My dear sister, I’m sixty-four years of age! Of course, I have pain!”

Three, I am fairly well assured (with no need or hope of refutation) that, as I’m wont to say, I have more life and labor behind me than ahead of me. As such, with the instant of my dying far closer than the day of my birth, I don’t have enough years of life left to try to remember all the things that I’ve lived long enough to have forgotten. In this awareness (perhaps enhanced by a second glass of wine), my soul is warmed by a spirit of the peace of the release from one more care, the relief from one more worry. And that is not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all.


6 thoughts on “more on aging

  1. So Paul, I love all three of your points. Before I get to them, first and foremost let me say how impressed I am with your positivity towards your chores and cooking at Clevedale! I can’t wait to taste your new dishes!

    #1 – I guess no one likes aging, but you’re so realistic about it…. YEP we are gonna die in a much shorter period of time than we’ve lived. Things change pretty quickly as we get older. It’s scary that nothing works the way it used to. I just try to find a different way to work it!

    #2 – I love how you accept it. It is what it is… but in your rehirement, you’re wearing it (and working it) so well! I smiled about your story of your response to the nurse about pain. For me, the pain is more emotional than physical. I am discovering how deeply painful this emotional trauma I am going through is. It’s as bad or worse in some ways, than all the pain I went through over the 13 years of my illness and that’s saying something! So I was kinda ready to have the pain of aging because I’ve been through a lot with some of my older friends, like Pat and Helen… but the emotional pain has surprised me.

    #3 – I loved this one the most!!! Simply because of the fact that as we age we can’t remember all the stuff we’ve done in the past and that’s not always a bad thing!! For the past 10 months, I’ve been reminded over and over of many (what seemed to be trivial moments at the time) moments on Facebook that I had completely forgotten about but now they are priceless. I’m so grateful that we shared so many moments with Tim on Facebook and are reminded of those memories several times a month. Some I’ve been comfortable sharing again, and others I have chosen to keep within our family. These 40-90 second clips were never going to be notable in our lives like awards and other accomplishments would be, but they sure are more meaningful to me now. I’m so glad I encouraged you to photograph your breakfast items because quite frankly it’s a milestone I never thought I’d see in your future… and I’m sooo proud of you.

    Cool post!! Thanks and love to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loretta, your point and discursis about physical and emotional pain, comparing and contrasting the two…hmmm, I MUST think more about that. A provocative point, indeed…

      Also, I respond readily, deeply to your sense that seemingly less than notable memories become writ large in moments of reflection. Ah, another grand point to ponder.

      Much love

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your acceptance of aging. Oddly, this last week, it has not been my own physical state that I find myself lamenting, with yet another birthday, but rather, the loss of two school friends – one of whom I had done a bike trip with when we truly were at our physical prime. I think it is the realization of the losses of others that is beginning to sink in – I really regret that facet of aging.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, Laura, indeed. I knew I had arrived at a new/another stage/state of being when those in my generation began to die. In this past year, my dearest male friend died. Wholly unexpectedly. Not a day passes when he does not come to mind. I remember our last, which no longer can be our present, much less our future. This, a damnable aspect of aging, as in all aspects, is inevitable.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Paul,

    You, and Loretta and Laura with their responses, have captured some key realizations that aging brings with it. Like you, at 70, I frequently mourn the waning of my physical abilities, the diminishment of my mental acuity, and the narrowing of possibilities for what I can expect to accomplish or experience in the rest of my life. (I am currently nursing a panoply of aches and pains that came with a long weekend of unaccustomed gardening!) Like Laura, I lost a dear friend from high school last week, one with whom I had reconnected in a particularly sweet and meaningful way in the past few years when a business trip brought me to D.C. where he lived. I am beginning to feel there is a profound message in these fadings and losses that I am finally starting to learn. It is summed up in the opening lines of an old Simon & Garfunkel song from the 60’s: “Slow down, you move too fast; got to make the morning last…” Loretta alluded to it in her post about the Facebook postings about Tim that now are so precious to her. I am beginning to know that being grateful for and savoring the moment I am in, the people I am with, and the thing that is happening right now is central to my ability to be content with my life. If some grace had allowed me to learn that at 20 rather than closer to 70, I feel sure I would be looking back on a much different life. I have spent so much of my time either looking back and regretting or looking forward and planning or hoping, that I know now that I missed or failed to appreciate much of what I experienced. Aging requires us to slow down; it slows us down almost by definition, and I think in large part, that is the wisdom it brings us.

    I loved the picture of you on the front porch of Clevedale in your shorts with your glass of sauvignon blanc at your side. What a lovely picture of life at any age that is, but particularly for an almost 65 year old. I hope you do that every single evening, and I hope Pontheolla is at your side when you do. And I hope you both take time for that second glass!

    One of the things I am grateful for and savor whenever the opportunity arises is your wonderful posts. Keep them coming.

    Much love to you and Pontheolla.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, my dear Karen, you, too, love deeply and write most eloquently.

      Aging is, I believe, an existential state laden with losses of all kinds and coming incrementally at all times until death. Still, as an existential state, aging means that I am alive. I take daily heart in that.

      One of the images your reply evoked in me is that of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, oft depicted as one head with two faces looking in opposite directions. Some time ago, I don’t recall when (one of those things I’ve forgotten!), it occurred to me that Janus’ true face cannot be seen, for it, between the oppositional faces, is peering always at “now”, the moments of which come sequentially, rapidly, one after the other until time’s end. It makes sense to me that we humans spend time reflecting on the past (which, in some sense, is fixed, stable, if not always desirable) and looking projectively into our yet unrealized and, thus always fluid futures (in some measure, an act of hope). Nevertheless, what I perceive as the true face of Janus reminds me of the necessity, the essentiality of staying, being present. Whenever I remember and practice this – what I have come to believe is truth – I discern afresh that there is not one encounter or conversation with another (including my inner “other”!) in which I do not learn something new about life, the world, myself, and God.

      Much love, always and in all ways, Karen, to you, Ted, and Emilia,

      Liked by 1 person

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