Age and Wisdom

“Are you a senior?” the young woman at the cash-out counter asked me. I looked around to see if she was talking to someone else.

“Me, oh, yes, senior. Would you like to see ID.”

“That’s not necessary sir, thank you.”

Well thank you too. I thought, kind of miffed, not at all happy about my senior’s discount. Was it that obvious? Did I really look my age? Maybe I should have shaved, plucked my nose hair, groomed myself a bit better. When I got home I asked Clare if I really looked that old.

“How old is that?”

“Well, eh, like a senior.”

“You look distinguished my dear and if you combed your hair you’d look five years younger.”

When I related the episode to Campbell, he just laughed. “Remember when we were in our twenties? Everybody over forty seemed ancient and everybody with grey hair had one foot in the grave. It’s the invincible age, when the future stretches out endless into the distance and old age included everybody over thirty.”

“And then comes the age of platitudes, like ‘you’re only as old as you feel’ or ‘young at heart, old in wisdom’. Well I feel fit and thirsty, curious and engaged. Who cares about a silly number? Some people are old at fifty,” I said, trying to downplay the whole age thing.

“You know when I feel old? When I sit on the ferry reading a book while all the young people stare into their smart phones.”

“That’s got nothing to do with age,” I said. “Everybody stares into their little screens like all the worlds secrets are buried in there. I feel old when a cashier gives me my senior’s discount without asking to see my ID. “

“Just because you’re of a certain, eh, mature age doesn’t mean you’re any wiser for it. In fact the older I get the more I seem to forget,” Camp said, “Or to quote Socrates: I know that I know nothing.”

“Didn’t he also say: ‘Wisdom begins in wonder’?

“While we’re at it, I like Leonard Cohen’s analysis of aging men with regard to the allure of women: You start off irresistible, then resistible until you become invisible and eventually somewhat repulsive but at the end you transform into cute and that’s something to look forward to.” Camp said.

“Yes, and I also like his line: “I hurt in places where I used to play.”

Camp laughed and took a long sip of his beer. He set it down and wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “I think it was one of Stephen King’s characters who outlined the three ages of man, wich are youth, middle age, ad how the fuck did I get old so soon.”

We both laughed and nodded. Only a guy who’s there would wholeheartedly agree.

“My dad used to say: getting old is easy, being old is hard.,” I said. “He didn’t like being old but never complained unlike my mom. Both made it into their nineties. He lost his mind and she lost her body. Not sure which is worse.”

“Probably losing your mind is easier on yourself but hard on everybody else while losing your physical abilities is hardest on the person,” Camp said. “Anyway we’re nowhere near the sunset years, we’re still in the fun part of life where we need to enjoy every beer like it’s the last one.”

“Wise counsel my friend. Let’s ask Vicky what she thinks. She is a straight shooter.”

“I dare you,” said Camp.

I waved Vicky over and asked her straight out: “Vicky, do you think I’m old?”

Vicky took a step back and tilted her head and put one hand under her chin, looking at me like I was a curious painting or a strange kind of plant.

“When I look at you I don’t see age, I see someone I like and know. As far as I’m concerned the two of you are ageless.”

“Vicky, you should be in politics,” Camp laughed, “we need somebody like you at the town hall. “

“Can I talk you two into another beer?” she said coyly. How could we refuse?




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