Aging and Raging

. . .put some Willie in my ear that I might hear, yet again, Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.

Today the federal government certified me as officially “old”. My medicare card arrived. And, as if that were not enough, my new AARP membership turned up as well. Lucky me…a double dose of “the end is near”. Little wonder then that I have spent this gloomy day considering options.

On the one hand, I have this strange desire to go to the JC Penny’s store and buy plaid Bermuda shorts and long black knee-high socks to wear with my new sandals. Accessories will include a golf hat, new clubs and one of those little electric carts that glide silently up and down long grassy fairways in pursuit of a tiny white ball. And after the golfing, while the shadows grow long, I will eat very early…at a cafeteria somewhere…and go to bed at 8:00 pm…right after the news and weather on cable.

On the other hand, I cannot quit thinking about the poet Dylan Thomas and his now famous exhortations to his aging father:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Thomas’ poem (read all of it below) has become an enduring metaphor for transcending infirmities, resisting death, and milking life for all we can get out of it. That sure as hell sounds better to me than golf and mashed potatoes. Besides, I have always been good at raging—against or for all kinds of causes and things. I’m a good rager (not a word, but you get it) and a good milker too. So I lean naturally toward the Dylan Thomas approach

But there’s another factor that comes into play. You see I don’t really feel old. OK, that’s a white lie. Let me just say I don’t feel old in my mind. But any number of niggling things on or in my body hurt most of the time now. Some joints are stiff. I don’t sleep well. And I take pills for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Moreover, my short term memory is…what was I going to say here? I had it just moment ago.

Well never mind. Just consider this: The body ages, but the intellect and the spirit can remain young, curious, and adventurous. It is just a matter of personal will, mental exercise and deep resolve. Dig for it.

For all of us who are crossing the threshold into what is universally and euphemistically called the “autumn of our years”, there are choices. What will yours be? Mine will be, in the words of the poet, to “burn and rave at the close of day”until the “dying light” fades to black. I will not dwell on the aches, pains and infirmities sure to besiege me, but will stoically ignore them that I might do the following until my last breath is breathed:

Savor and drink in the amazing majesty of the earth and all its teaming, vibrant life. My God, the beauty.

Fight to restore our republic and protect liberty, justice, and the rule of law.

Love family and friends with unfaltering commitment.

Help others in need.

Pursue adventures, music, art, knowledge.

Indulge my boundless epicurean appetite for good food and drink, the good life.

Sing, dance and make music.

And what if that moment comes when I am bedridden with only a finger to wag, one ear that hears, and a still working nose. I will rage on by wagging the one working finger as if to say come here. And someone’s job will be to let me smell a rose with my nose and put some Willie in my ear that I might hear, yet again, “Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”

Parting shot. We’re not really old at all; we’re just getting ready to move on to what’s next…if you get my drift.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

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One thought on “Aging and Raging

  1. Hey, be glad… it’s cool for men to get old. Look at Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford. Men get to embrace their oldness. As for women… well, we’re supposed to take drugs, use special creams and have surgeries so that we can futility try to perpetually look as good as we did in our 20’s. You’ve got it soooooo good, Mike Watson!

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