Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Aging Against Our Will..!


Dear Friends,

My birthday this week reminds me that we really only have two options with the whole aging thing. We can age gracefully and be grateful to God that He has given us another year in this our temporary earthly home or we can be dragged against our will, kicking and screaming into another year like my old friend David. (not his real name)

It was in the early seventies that I went to work as an administrator for a Hollywood law firm and became friends with David who was one of the partners. He was a successful thirty- nine year old attorney whose father had been the Hollywood director/producer of one of the top television shows in the ‘50s-‘60s. David had inherited the family wealth. He was a quiet, withdrawn and unassuming bespectacled man with ordinary features and a bald spot that his Yarmulke neatly covered during Jewish holy days. He dressed in custom-tailored silk suits and refused to own a shirt unless it had french cuffs and his initials monogrammed above the pocket. He lived a quiet bachelor’s life in a hillside house with two cats as his only companions.  

Within a week after David turned forty, he took his gold American Express card to Millers Outpost on Hollywood Blvd and, among the twenty year old shoppers, bought enough new outfits to open a small store of his own. From that moment on, he came to work at our conservative law office dressed in the style of the seventies: bell-bottom pants, handmade leather belts and sandals, billowing paisley shirts, corduroy vests and a gold chain with a peace symbol. He resented having to wear a suit on court dates.

He stopped going to the opera and listening to classical music and started coming into work late after being out all night at Beverly Hills clubs. We snickered when he traded in his wire-rimmed glasses for contacts and his Lincoln Continental for a burgundy Dino 246 Ferrari. We laughed when he let his remaining hair grow long and started wearing a leather Greek fisherman’s cap to cover his bald spot. We stopped laughing when he started to regularly date one of our twenty-three year old clients who had just become the Playboy Playmate of the Year. 

I had no feelings of envy for his new “mod” lifestyle and was filled with concern for my friend. I saw a conservative forty year attorney frantically trying to erase fifteen years from his life by disguising himself as a "mod." Every waking moment seemed to be further spent grasping in the darkness for his elusive fantasy of youth and the stress predictably began to show in his work. David had always been obsessed about perfection and details but now it seemed as if I was too often scrambling to help him with his cases and keep him focused.

A well-kept secret from his partner, a criminal defense attorney, was David’s use of marijuana and cocaine. Like a deprived child discovering the delights of chocolate ice cream for the first time, David excitedly told me that cocaine had made him really happy for the first time in his life and he was sorry that he had spent so many years without it. 

David’s social life became increasingly more frantic along with his deeper involvement with recreational drugs. At Christmas time, David gave extremely expensive one pound packages of high-grade marijuana to all of his friends, and his feelings were hurt when I gave mine back. He invited me to his numerous parties and I politely refused. There was a fifteen year age difference between the two of us, but the ever-widening difference in our matureness had eroded our friendship.

David’s incredible mid-life folly left such a strong impression on me that I often remember him around my own birthdays. Back a few decades ago when I turned forty, I thought about my former friend and decided to do nothing foolish about becoming “middle-aged.” I just wanted to wait and see what would happen. What happened was that today I need five pairs of eye glasses to keep me from stumbling through life. I wrenched my back the other day simply by cleaning one of the cat’s litter boxes and I can now accurately predict the arrival of a cold front by the degree of arthritic aching in my finger joints. I’ve noticed that health issues are now at the forefront of my mind and I embarrassed a loved one at a coffee shop. The waitress came to our table with a pot in hand. “Regular?” she asked. I replied, “Yes and thank you so much for asking! I’ve increased fruit and fiber in my diet and it’s been very helpful.” 

As I thought about David this past weekend, I wondered if he had ever traded back the “John Lennon” Greek fisherman’s cap for the Yarmulke and allowed himself to mature gracefully. For only then can we enjoy life and welcome the peaceful happiness that comes not from the frantic reliving of our yesterdays but from the celebration of our todays.

I have a button that says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly.” I may as well just go ahead and put it on since I’m never gonna be any younger than I am right now...

2 comments:

  1. I love this! Happy Birthday John!
    Sue

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cute and witty but thought provoking AC this week! To be honest, I've never quite understood the full meaning of growing old gracefully however, I think growing old is a beautiful thing for many reasons. Youthfullness is a state of mind. Some of the oldest peaple that I've met were in thier 30s ans 40s.

    ReplyDelete

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