We’ve been here since 1995 and we’re only the third owners. Number 1: 1921-61: built with what appears to have been a small servant’s suite in the front, side entrance directly to the kitchen, and other cultural markers of the age. Number 2: 1961-1995: new salmon formica countertops in the kitchen (now used as garage storage cabinets), an expanded master suite, and some (hideous) pale green paint on many walls. Number 3: 1995-present: reconfigured master suite, new kitchen and baths, expanded garage, etc.
As is (I suppose) inevitable, the place is starting to show its age. We’re well into the cycle of replacing kitchen appliances, lifting up the rugs shows how dark the floors were restained 28 years ago, scratches and nicks, creaks and cracks; nothing remarkable, just the ordinary signs of age. When, at some point in the future, we decide to sell, some sales agent will want us to spend six figures to paint and prettify it for a few hours so that potential buyers won’t have to strain to imagine what it will look like when they “modernize” it for the mid-21C. In the meantime, we will live with some scratches and cabinet doors that don’t quite close.
I remember some years (decades) ago, when I got a new car, thinking: “I’ll just always keep it up and in shape, so it won’t ever look like some ‘beater.’” (AH, youth!—the idealization of newness and perfection, the inability to comprehend the eternal conflict between inertia and friction, the dismissal of the daily costs and aggravations of maintenance.) Needless to say, our older car (23 years and limping) has a multitude of scratches and dings, with visible duct tape. It’s a “sight,” but it’s far better than the thousands to “restore” it or the tens-of-thousands to replace it. We don’t use it much, so it’s “fine” as it is; clearly closer to the end than to the beginning.
So, too, for my personal abode and my personal ambulatory device (aka my “body”). Like the house and car, there are scratches and dents, the engine doesn’t rev as high as it used to, upkeep is more extensive (and expensive). Visions/imaginings/idealizations of fitness and fuller hair still float by, but the time needed for stretching muscles and tending to aches is longer (not to mention the work required to bike my ten miles on the exercycle), and the time needed for hair brushing is shorter.
It is time, in the words of Dylan Thomas, to “rage against the dying of the light.” There’s no point to waiting for the final stages of decline to mount my defense. So I have to balance a degree of acceptance/reality with an urge to push off the faint loomings of existential dread. Of a nineteen-year-old who is tragically killed, it is often said that they had “their whole life ahead of them.” The same is true of a sixty-nine-year-old; though it is not often said.
My wife, at least on this physical front, is much more vigorous in her defense; marshalling legions of lotions and potions, trainers and stylists, and a full embrace of the wonders of cosmetic dermatology. This is (shall we say) not my style. No Rogaine or Botox for me. I choose to rely on my “natural beauty” to carry me through.
About twenty years ago, I started doing a “birthday ride” on my exercycle: one mile per year of age. I kept it up (going through several such machines along the way) until a couple of years ago when I shifted to one kilometer per year. I don’t think even that is feasible at this point, so I will need to adjust and adapt and come up with a new, more plausible “stretch” target.
At some point, I will “run out of gas” (or whatever metaphor will be adopted in the upcoming all-electric age). We a few months ago we visited a close friend of the family who made it to 100, but his path was pretty clearly marked (and has since concluded). I have no idea how may path will be shaped: its length or detours, its angle of decline. All I can say is that things don’t look imminent, there are no visible icebergs ahead, and the demographics are encouraging. Everything else is speculation with a heavy reliance on wish projection.
I will omit the full range of aphorisms and philosophical insights usually trotted out in such discussions; bar one.
Montaigne said: “Count no man happy until he is dead.” So, I guess since that date is somewhere between tomorrow and whenever, I should concentrate on maintaining my happiness—day-to-day—in the hope of completing my run in such a state.