Column Getting older doesn't mean you have to feel old

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By: 

Roger VanHaren

I don’t know why it is, but lately people have been sending me “forwards” about being or getting old. You know, like all those “Maxine” cards from Hallmark. I wonder why people think I’d associate myself with the idea of aging. My body will be 79 next week, but my mind is somewhere in my 50s.

In a line I used to use in my Mark Twain impersonation, Twain once said, “I am old; I recognize it, but I don’t realize it. I wonder if a person ever really ceases to feel young — I mean, for a whole day at a time.” He was 71 when he said that in a speech on Jan. 24, 1906 – not so very old, right?

In another speech that same year, Twain said, “I am aware that I am very old now; but I am also aware that I have never been so young as I am now, in spirit … I am only able to perceive that I am old by a mental process; I am altogether unable to feel old in spirit. It is a pity, too, for my lapses from gravity must surely often be a reproach to me. When I am in the company of very young people, I always feel that I am one of them, and they probably privately resent it.”

I don’t think of myself as being old; I prefer to regard myself as “marvelously mature.” I don’t mind being older. I have a good life, and I’ve had so many good people who’ve been a part of my life. I have many wonderful stories to tell. I’ve never been more interesting than I am now – and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. It’s just that I have lived an interesting life and have interacted with so many interesting people.

Another good thing about being my age is that I am never tempted to “keep up with the Joneses.” I’m OK with I what I have, and with what I can and cannot do. I recognize my abilities and my limitations. I don’t need the latest styles: I just like being comfortable. Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable. I guess one of the keys to aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the people who are important to me. Marilyn and I have been married nearly 57 years, and she’s more important to me now than ever before. I appreciate every opportunity I get to be with my kids and grandkids. I appreciate my sister, who now lives close to me after having lived in Florida for over 20 years. It’s nice to be able to see her more often.

I appreciate the wonderful health care professionals who are doing their best to make me well. I appreciate the great friends I have who’ve so generously helped me when I was unable to handle some of the everyday chores that needed to be done.

I don’t know who said it, but I like the thought in this comment: “Remember: You don’t stop laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop laughing.” And again, from Mark Twain: “Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: “For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

Contact Roger VanHaren at rjmavh@gmail.com.