I’m not sure what the expression, “aging gracefully” means. I sometimes hear it in connection with some movie star or some world famous person. I have never really understood its meaning. I believe that I now have some idea of its meaning. I believe that aging gracefully is a euphemism for not complaining about growing older and dressing in stylish clothes (a la Cary Grant or the Dos Equis guy).

I have not yet come to that place in my life. I have a feeling that I have been aware of my mortality since I was 10 years old in August of 1949. It was at the moment in Willard Parker Hospital on the east side of Manhattan when I realized that I had polio. I was lying in a bed next to a glass window that separated the beds. I tried like hell to raise myself to stand and could not. The fact that I remember that instant so clearly is proof that immortality melted away. Something could bludgeon me and I would be no more.

My mind rolled back to a scene in a Williams Avenue apartment in February of 1943 when I saw my dad collapse and was taken to a hospital. I never saw him again.

Those are the kind of things that stamp your view of life and death forever. As I read the descriptions of Antonin Scalia passing away yesterday, I was reminded that he was 2 years older than me. True enough that he did not seem to take care of himself, but that is of no consequence. He no longer exists as a person, although his influence lingers on.

Living here in Adult Disneyworld one can look at mortality in a number of ways. As I make my way to the gym, I see displayed before me people in all stages of health. We are all there to extend our lives, or at the least make our lives more comfortable. I place myself in the latter category. I never thought that I would reach the year 2000, much less 2016. I could never even dream of the 2016 world with me in it. That is truly a remarkable thing.

As I contract more tiny little discomforts, I realize that I have been fortunate enough to have a heart procedure and I knee replacement. However, things like taking 20 pills a day (better living through chemistry) make me realize that I am trying to reconstitute myself to a former life. I spend more time in the bathroom these days applying cremes and unguents, toe devices, and shoe inserts than ever before. It is a reminder that without these things, I would not be able to function properly.

A constant reminder to me of my aging is the age cohort in the place where I am living. No matter what gathering, a movie, a play, a meeting, a political gathering, etc., the heads that I see spread before me is grey. Yes, there are bunches of women with hair of differing hues, but most are grey. I am trying mightily to get over these scenes. I have actually moved to a place in my daily life where I am going to high school basketball games and meeting with young men who may need a bit of some help with the next stages of their life. In those situations, I am neither old, nor young. I am the same person who has worked with young people for most of my life. That is my defense against aging and my frailties. The young folks that I work with are still trying to push me to take a jump shot. My answer to them is, “I am so old that when I played basketball, white men COULD jump.”




  1. Boy, did you hit home. I was in Willard Parker with polio in 1947 (6 yrs old), and then Haverstraw in 1948. I still work full time, but am feeling the age creeping up…more each day. As Pete Seeger said, “Keep on keepin’ on”.
    Stan Berkowitz

  2. What I have been wrestling with is knowing that on the inside I am the same young person but when I look in the mirror, the vessel is aging…it’s a hard realization to synthesize.

  3. Great introspection!
    I’ve been saying for years that if it weren’t for modern medicine, I’d probably be dead! Not sure, but it’s probably a possibility! Terry and I joke all the time about death and dying. Terry’s not going to buy any more shoes or clothes because he’s sure he has enuf for the rest of his life. Think how much I’d be saving if I followed his advice.
    Having lost both parents, a younger brother and two husbands (one in a 1977 plane crash), and all the accompanying trauma, maybe by now I’m less worried about death. What REALLY bothers me is all the STUFF I have packed away; it’s imperative that I go thru it all or my kids will dump it in the trash………..we’ve shown all the boxes of stuff to my son and have told him it’s his inheritance. But what do I care if they toss it all? I’ll be dead.

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