On Turning 48

I recently celebrated my 48th birthday.  I told my wife that it is freaky to think that 50 is just around the corner.  She pointed out that I have two years to brace myself and to start adjusting to the idea.

I told her that what bothers me is that I can no longer convince myself that I have lived half my life–that I still have half my life ahead of me.  At thirty, I still felt confident that I had more years to go than I had already lived.  At thirty-five I realized that I might have reached the halfway point.  But statistically, it is getting more and more likely that I have fewer years left than I have already lived.  I would be an unusual person to make it to 96, which is what I would have to do if I am at the halfway mark now.

I am still in reasonably good health, though.  I do not smoke, and I eat relatively healthily–compared to the average person.  I drink something with alcohol no more than once or twice a year.  I am somewhat active, although I should do better.  I have no heart condition, no diabetes, no thyroid problems–things that some of my friends, even younger ones, have.  My blood pressure is within range, and my cholesterol is only slightly high.  I do not take daily medication.  My worst problems are an occasional flare up of a pinched sciatic nerve and migraines, both of which are largely under control at this time.

My wife asked me if it even sounded good to be 96 years old.  I said, “Not really.  It might actually be better to die of something sudden before reaching that point.”  She agreed.

Nobody wants to die, but we all have to live with the reality that it will happen.  In my twenties it barely seemed possible, in my thirties it seemed a stronger possibility, and now that I am nearing 50, I am strongly aware that it is getting closer every day.  Several people whom I have known are already dead.  Each time I hear of the death of a friend or relative, the reality sinks in deeper.  The realization that it will happen to me becomes clearer.

Somebody told me recently that I look younger than I am.  I believe that he is right.  I find myself noticing celebrities on TV who are the same age as I am (or younger) but who look older than I do–more wrinkles, grayer hair, flabbier muscles.  I am thankful both for my good genes and for my wisdom in taking care of myself.

It’s weird to be 48 years old.  It seems like such a big number.  I know that it won’t be long before I am 58 and then 68 and then 78–Lord willing!  Still, I am no longer 18 or 28, and that stinks.  There is a line in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life that comes to mind:  “Youth is wasted on the young.”  So true.  What I would do if I had my youthful energy and drive now!  Oh, well.  There’s a lot to say for becoming more mellow and more deliberate.  Maybe I will start sitting in the lotus position and dispensing wisdom to young passersby.  Or maybe not!  They won’t listen anyway.

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