LUCKY GARVIN: The Looking Glass

Lucky Garvin

At this point in my thinking, I am confused as to whether to call it a soft sorrow or a reluctant fascination. The subject is aging. On my next birthday, in addition to the presence of a Fire Marshall, my cake will strain under the burden of seventy candles [said candles more expensive than the cake.] But that can’t be right! I simply cannot be that old. But actuarial reality forbids a 70-year-old man from being middle-age.

It has become a catch-phrase that fifty years of age is the new forty; forty the new thirty, and so forth. But, take it from me, if seventy years old is anything but seventy years old, I wish someone would tell my joints!

At my age, there is no ‘new’ anything. Then there’s the age-old question: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? Well, that depends on which day you ask me, and whether or not my back is acting up.

But, things could be worse: I could be allergic to toilet paper.

Mirrors, I think, offer a far more compassionate rendering of our appearance than do photographs. I was looking at a family picture the other day, and I recognized everyone except an older guy, bald, elfin, white-haired, and shorter than I remembered him. His face was somewhat drawn… and pruney … and wizened… Oh my stars. That man was me! Forsooth! I have passed beyond the first freshness of youth many years ago

Using a mirror, I think our eyes kindly air-brush away the years’ tell-tales. Pictures are more disciplined to reality and truth, and less sympathetic to ‘touch-ups.’

I am shorter now than I once was; bones shrink, taking some of your height with that subtraction. Also this: I know I lack the muscular strength of my youth. Things are heavy which never used to be. I have gotten used to younger men asking if I needed some help lifting something. But now, a new phenomenon is occurring: now I’m being asked by women if I require assistance.

To quote old-time comedian Jimmy Durante: Dis is a revoltin’ toin of events!

As I study pictures of me, I realize there is news, both good and bad: Statistically, I am now at an age too old to contract certain diseases and conditions, but am now old enough to contract others; that gives a fellow a ‘hemmed in’ sort of feeling.

I recall a song by Frank Sinatra, “The man in the looking glass, who can he be? That man in the looking glass, could he possibly be me…?” Heck, no, it’s not me! I’m not that old!

It’s a Heavenly accounting error! I demand a re-count! What was I doing while all this was going on?!

Actually, I know full well a recount will change not one whit this truth: despite the fact that I feel the same as I always have in the familiar environs of my own brain, the body which carries that brain around is changing.

Do I need someone to say, `It’s okay that you’ve grown old?’ I think not, for I’ve always half-suspected I would. I am also well aware, not everyone is granted the privilege.

To live, to participate fully in the pageantry of life knowing we will inevitably approach our concluding years, and to do so wrapped in a calm, accepting philosophy, rather than to rail against death – its unavoidable involution, open trousers and food-encrusted shirts – is an unheralded act of wisdom and courage. Sometimes my mind chides me: “Well, Garvin, you’re nearly seventy-years-old . . .” And I answer: “So are you.”

I have before written, “I’ve never been this old before.” But it is equally true I shall never be this young again. But this I can say of the passing of the years: age, I suspect, and not wisdom, have banked many of the disruptive, intemperate passions of my youth, and that’s worthy of my gratitude.

Given the unavoidable reality of the gathering months and years, perhaps, having left ‘young’ a long time ago, I am well advised to sign a peace treaty with aging. To take full advantage of the present day, and worry not when I shall be called; rather, to learn each day, and truly live the time remaining should be my chief employment.

Or, as someone said: Just keep dancing ‘till the music fades out.’

The final summons will come from Heaven, as it should.

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