Aging is usually a race of depletion between your money and your marbles. That’s not to say both can’t evaporate in concert, though most people now tend to outlive at least one or the other. It’s interesting how oblivious the public is to the historic novelty of this dilemma. For comparison, our antebellum forebears only lingered for 37 years of life on average. That’s probably one reason no human being then ever called another one “racist.” There simply wasn’t enough time to waste on it. And that wasn’t the only blessing of living briefly. Men who check-out without a gray hair usually do so with their faculties and a full wallet. Live long enough and we all become husks. Advanced medicine is here to make sure that’s what gets buried.
I’m not really complaining. If 37 were my expiration date, I’d only have a decade left. At least that’s about what the guy in the mirror looks like to my eyes. It’s funny how he never seems to age, but somehow I do. Why have only our self-perceptions found the fountain of youth? I started asking myself that question after participating in a video conference a few weeks ago. One of the panels on my computer showed a man whose face had folds deeper than the trench lines at Verdun. Mystifyingly, my name appeared above his image. Startled by this haggard hideosity, I rushed back to my mirror, which reassured me that my youth remained fully in bloom. What a relief.
Though it’s not just odd characters on video conferences who are subject to the abuse of time. Worse than our own personal desiccation is the withering of loved ones. And the most grueling of all is seeing it happen from the inside out. That’s the result when marbles lose the race to mortality; there is no more insulting defeat. To watch those who have been a pillar of your life slowly recede into a face that barely recognizes you, is to curse the silent thief who has taken them. Because you barely even knew to say goodbye. And once you realized it was time, there was no one left to say it to. You can’t even recall exactly when they stopped being entirely them. But while you weren’t looking the relationship inverted; you have become the responsible adult and they the dependent child. Life is a maelstrom, and senses leave quietly.
Thanks to both modern medicine and society most of us will enjoy many years of being called racist past 37. And while reflections remain impervious to temporal concerns, our bodies and minds unfortunately do not. That’s why I hope each of you take opportunities to enjoy the people and moments you have. Sometimes they are taken from us like Johnny Cash stealing a Cadillac: one piece at a time.