(See Why I Love Running: Part I for, um, Part I.)
One of the benefits to having been so completely nonathletic in my youth is that I have no injuries, which enables me to run at this age. And that leads me to the second reason I love running: it feeds my delusion that I am not aging.
I believe if I refuse to grow old, I can stay young ’til I die.
I almost hate citing this quote because only an old person would need to say something like that. It’s like how saying, “I’m young at heart” suggests that you’re old in body. I think a more apt expression—which I am just making up, so when you later quote it, make sure to credit me—is “If I deny it, I’ll defy it.” (Or maybe, “I abhor it, so I’ll ignore it.”)
Fortunately, whether it’s genetics, will, or my imagination, I don’t sense myself aging, except for two recent and distressing symptoms. One is that my eyes are going. It just started a few months ago and it makes me want to cry when I have to take my glasses off and put them on, off, and on, off and on to do something as simple as read the morning paper. Or when I’m squinting in a dimly lit room trying to make out the teeny controls on, say, the video camera. If there were anything I could do to make it stop, better yet, turn it around, I would. I do not accept this! It was bad enough being very nearsighted as I am. I feel my most inept in those moments when I’m struggling to read a menu, and that’s coming from someone who can’t throw a Frisbee.
As for the other symptom, I’ll tell you a story to illustrate it. I was at the reunion I wrote about last week and was explaining to two friends about the two signs of aging I have been experiencing. I talked about my vision, and we all commiserated about our presbyopia (which is derived from the Greek word that means “old person”—how lovely!) for a bit, and then I moved on to explain about the other thing.
“The other symptom…now what was the other one?”
I puzzled for a moment, and then burst out laughing when it hit me what I was searching for. “It’s my memory!”
This I don’t like so much either. The other day, I had to google “wedding night” to find the word “consummate.” I had sat for five minutes before that, seeing a glimmer of the word, then watching it fade from view, glimmer again, and disappear. That was giving me a headache and taking up too much of my precious time, so I had to give in and search for a word that means “to have sex.” Me. Proprietor of a domain named after an erogenous zone.
I find myself wondering whether I’d be in this pickle if I hadn’t spent my youth so, well, pickled. I didn’t worry then about how many brain cells I might be killing. But now I wonder if my memory might be better if I hadn’t partied as I did. (Does smoking cigarettes kill brain cells too? I don’t recall.) If I had any idea then how precious I would find some day those brain cells, I might have drunk one less bottle of peppermint schnapps…
I’m told the type of memory loss I am experiencing is normal, that everyone has this problem. At the party last week, others regaled me with stories far more ludicrous than having to look up a word. One friend relayed how she pulled into her driveway, got out of the car to open the garage door so she could pull the car in, and, forgotting the purpose of her task by then, went into the house, leaving the car in the driveway, running, door open, lights on.
That may be okay for everyone else, but my memory is such a defining part of me; I feel like I’m losing a part of the self. Plus I see the problems my mother is having with her memory, and recall vividly my grandfather’s descent into dementia. While my other grandfather and my mother’s mother were fully lucid, right up until the end, and I’ve no doubt my father could still run an engineering department if someone would hire him at 80, I have no way of knowing how the genes were distributed. So I take my fish oil pills in the hopes of improving my chances of keeping more of my marbles, because the alternative is not one I care to consider.
In the face of these frustrating and worrisome symptoms, the fact that I can run, that I can do Dance Dance Revolution as I do (a demonstration follows), that I can equal or better anything physical I did 20 years ago, helps me believe that the number of candles on my birthday cake is just someone’s bad idea of a joke.
For my e-mail subscribers: you’ll have to follow this link to see me do DDR.
Another distressing symptom, actually, is the belly fat! What is with that? Sure, the butt is smaller, but I look like Fred Flintsone in front, even at a decent weight.
In case you are wondering, I can do harder songs—I just don’t look as elegant doing them. (This song involves considerably less bouncing than some of the others.) I confess, I’ve never seen myself doing DDR before, and I am absolutely transfixed by the sight of it.