Monday, October 28, 2013

I Do Not Go Gentle...

Why am I so obsessed with being old? Why is it still a horrendous shock to realize that I, eternally young in mind and heart, am suddenly old in body? What happens to people as they age? When do they find themselves not in the mainstream but in some side-water marsh or tide pool? When do they cease being who they were and become...old?

Everyone lucky enough to still be alive ages, and it is ungrateful of me to complain for having been able to live long enough to be old when so many are denied the privilege.

Today in the supermarket, I was two customers behind a man about my age, or perhaps only slightly older, who for some reason was incapable of making his credit card work. The machine would not accept his pin number. He would  punch in his pin number again, swipe the card again, and the machine would not accept it. Finally, the clerk came out from behind the register and tried to help him, to no avail. 

I stood there for a good ten minutes, the man between the one with the problem and me growing ever more impatient, saying aloud that the man shouldn’t be allowed to be there without someone to help him. What a terrible...if perhaps accurate...thing for the old man to hear, but he ignored it, attempting to swipe his card and punch in his pin number yet again.

Finally something worked, and the man picked up his groceries and left.

How could this have happened? I know that at one time he was young and floated effortlessly with the mainstream, independent and giving not a thought to ever having problems at a checkout line.

Yet I identified with him totally. I find myself fumbling over things I can’t recall ever having fumbled over before. When I walk, I find myself weaving and almost stumbling. Why? How? What the “me” I have always been? Why am I not him now? And I am quite sure I speak not only for myself but for a great many people in my same position.

The quiet acceptance of reality is a concept I have always refused to accommodate. I know my struggles are futile. That age will do with me what it will. I may be unable to resist it, but I shall heed poet Dylan Thomas’s words:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Please don’t misunderstand; although I will be 80 years old--is that possible? Surely not! How can it be possible----in a few short weeks, I do not believe I am quite yet standing on the threshold of that good night. But I am sufficiently practical to acknowledge that there are far far more days behind me than ahead.

And it is not made easier by the fact that those who still are in the mainstream make it abundantly if subtly clear that I am no longer one of them and do not belong in their world. Do well-intentioned people on public transportation get up and offer you a seat? Probably not. When you’re old, you look different from them, and they respond to you differently.

I watch college students at the Fullerton el station adjacent to DePaul University bound down the steps two and three at a time, as I always did, but simply can no longer do. Why? Why can’t I? I watch them run effortlessly across the street to catch a bus. If I even attempt to run, I have all the fluid grace of Frankenstein’s monster. This is not a bid for sympathy; truly it is not, it is just a fact.

So I suppose I use these obsessive “old age” blogs as an old time signalman frantically...and futilely trying to alert an oncoming train to the fact that the bridge is out ahead. There’s nothing that can be done to prevent whatever lies ahead, but at least we can brace ourselves for the inevitable.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

We just went and saw Joan Rivers over the weekend. She's 80. And while watching her, I kept thinking about my grandmother, who's 83. There's a world of difference. My grandmother isn't fond of doing anything beyond going to get her hair done and stopping by Meijer before calling it a day. Joan has three TV shows she's doing, plus doing stand-up dates.

As in youth, we vary greatly as we age, too. Someone of a greater age may have difficulty with technology, but they have something far more important than the younger generations; life experience.