July 23, 2019
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On aging: A (mostly) reasonable discussion with my dad

Chris Quimby | BDN
Chris Quimby | BDN
The author (from left), son Jordan, father Ray, and family at a sporting event recently. Photo courtesy Chris Quimby.

The season of life in which I now abide offers features my younger self’s did not.

Of most value is the newfound appreciation of youth that I lacked when I had no contrasting experience.

Nevertheless, I have to be careful around whom I complain of age. Anyone who has lived longer than my 45 years scoffs at my lamentations, proclaiming they would kill to be back in their fifth decade (providing, of course, they had the energy to commit such a crime).

These mature citizens share their own challenges deeper along the road than myself, challenges I will be fortunate to face twenty years from now should I live as long as my own father.

Dad looks ahead to a sometimes intimidating elderly life filled with, as he predicts, problems with “medication management, social security, Medicare, pooping, and peeing, in no particular order.”

I appreciate how comparatively fortunate I feel when hearing him say such things, but am quickly reminded of my own decreasing abilities whenever I’m around my 20-year-old son. He is now faster, stronger, leaner, and more energetic than myself and a frequent picture of what I will never again be this side of the grave.

My advantages over him are decreasing, but are not yet absent. Comedian Tim Hawkins, after his teenage son boasted of his own one percent body fat by asking his father, “What have you got?” replied simply— “Money”.

But even that advantage over my son won’t last. My son, when asked for his opinion regarding when his life peaked and why, expressed that he believes he is currently living his peak season. One of the reasons he cited is the training he’s receiving for the quality job he expects to receive, along with likely settling down in marriage within the next few years.

When asked the same question, my father, never short of a witty response, replied, “Now, because I can’t remember back very far and tomorrow I’m having a colonoscopy.”

He regards his gray hair as a crown, a source of the respect he feels others his age give and receive to and from each other. “People see it and think I’m smarter and wiser than I really am,” he says, “because you can’t have gotten this far in life without having some challenges thrown at you and having gotten through them.”

When asked what advice he’d give to someone half his age, it was my son who chimed in, encouraging young people to take risks and not fear failure.

My father, meanwhile, suggested reading the book “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. Within those pages exists the proverb that if you don’t find happiness along the way, you won’t find it at the end of the road.

And with the potential of increasingly bad eyesight and failing legs, one might be within their rights to wonder if they would be able to see the end of such a road and to even be able to walk there if they could.

I am thankful that I still have my own father whose gray hair I can follow for direction toward that sunset, and a son who will hopefully benefit from the footsteps left generations before him.



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