Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey
A few days ago, I passed a sort of a birthday milestone, number 60. We spent the day driving through the Valley of Fire state park about an hour north of Las Vegas. It was a useful retrospective, since while 60 years is a pretty good hike for a human, it's less than a flash of light to rocks whose ages are measured in tens of millions of years.
There was a time when I thought 60 was ancient; right up there with the rocks. I couldn't imagine myself being that far along. And as I over-ate my way through my 40's, there was a time when I frankly assumed I would have boarded the bus before that point. But there was an intervention, a massive weight loss, and here I still am.
One of my favorite original aphorisms is that while ageing is inevitable, being old is a choice. My experience in life has brought me into conversation with two types of old men. One is the type who reaches a certain point -- different for each man -- where the infirmities of age have filled the conscious mind, when mortality has become painfully apparent. This is the man who sits around, groaning about his aches and pains and is simply waiting to die. The other is the man who, while suffering from the same maladies, refuses to allow them to imprison him. He stays active, both mentally and physically, and enthusiastically lives life, as they say, like there was no tomorrow. I've wanted to be that second guy.
Many of my friends tell me that I don't act my age. I take that as a compliment. I ride a motorcycle, I run 20 miles every week, and I hike at least one of those days. I remain a voracious reader, and delve into crossword puzzles whenever I can. I write, pursuing that dream of freelance writing. I have promised myself that I will have a book published before I depart this life. I do look forward to retiring in six years, but not because I'm that interested in not working, but because I want to have the free time to pursue all these interests. And travel.
I do struggle. I am neck-deep in the prostate years. Arthritis affects my hands. Every morning, it takes 10 to 15 minutes of dedicated exercise to loosen up the lumbar muscles so that I can stand fully upright. There are times when my conversation halts in midstream while I search frantically for a word, or try to keep my train of thought from disappearing over the hill. My intake of sugars and carbs has to be strictly monitored. Appointments are sometimes hard to remember. And then there are those 5 stents in my heart. But I work through those because I don't want those things to control what I can and cannot do.