One of my brothers is ten years older than me. When he achieved 50 (I was going to say “turned” 50, but I associate something “turning” with going rotten, like an peeled banana left on the countertop all day in the sun), I was 10 days shy of 40. My sister-in-law threw a neighborhood party in his honor. After his celebratory golden anniversary birthday party, I recognized the main difference between a 40th birthday party and a 50th birthday party – about 3 hours.
You see, my brother’s party was over by 10 PM. It was a Saturday night, but all the guests had eaten their last pretzel, sipped their last merlot, and punctuated the evening with a stretch and a yawn. “Thanks, but since we’ll be up every hour on the hour to pee, and we can’t sleep past 5 AM anymore, we’d better get going. Had a lovely evening.”
The post-party debrief consisted of recounting all of the physical calamities being endured by the various party guests. Guest #1 has a biopsy scheduled for next month. Guest #2 blew out his knee playing touch football in the backyard. Guest #3 wasn’t drinking, since it messes with his heart meds. For me, this was a glimpse into the future – my future. The future would be defined by the health (or lack of health) of those around me, as well as my own. This was a simple reporting of the ailments and illnesses in the room. The constant complaining about the personal aches and pains associated with aging would be delayed until the 70th birthday party, I presumed.
That night, the 10 years between 40 and 50 seemed simultaneously far away and yet destined to be upon me in the blink of an eye. At the time, I could not imagine leaving a party by 10 PM, and yet I did not feel that I was that different from the other party guests, albeit with darker, more luxurious hair in its original color. They seemed like peers. Their kids were older, but we shared common interests, and enough common experiences to make casual conversations comfortable. That said, I was unmistakably younger, and that glorious factoid was unspoken yet understood by all. I was at the stage in my life when “prostate” still meant “against a strong central government”, and not that I had a ‘growing’ problem.
That is changing.
The party that I attended 9+ years ago will be held in my honor in 11 more months, and I feel exactly the same way I did in 2002, except for a few minor differences:
My hands hurt, pretty much all the time to one degree or another. Clenching my fists is uncomfortable. I find it hard to hold the guitar pick between my thumb and forefinger. I make conscious dietary choices instead of eating anything within arm’s length. I can’t read the newspaper without my glasses. My right big toe no longer fully flexes, and my feet have never completely recovered from the marathon run of 2001. My teeth are extremely sensitive to hot and cold, and my shoulders are permanently damaged from playing hockey. I no longer have any idea what goes through the head of a teenager. If I skip my morning shower, even I am offended by the odor.
I might be like that peeled banana on the counter top, rotting in the hot sun.
I’m not sure if 50 is creeping up on me, or I am racing towards it, but I am NOT complaining at this point. That will come in 20 more years. At least I have being ornery without guilt to look forward to…that, and some great parking spots.