Thoughts by Richard Bleil
My father struggled with his eyesight. He would never admit it, but to those around him, it was obvious. It had gotten to the point where we began to beg him to go to an optometrist, but he refused.
When I was in high school, I tried out for football. I wasn’t very successful, but Melissa was the wrong reason to join in the first place. I had some advantages, though. My reflexes were extraordinary, and my leg muscles were incredibly powerful. I remember when the players put me on the leg press machine thinking they would have a good laugh, but as the weight bar began to bend, and the available weights began running low, there wasn’t much laughter as I pressed more than even most seniors. To their credit, their mockery did turn to acknowledgment and respect. What I was missing, unfortunately, was experience, speed, upper body strength, and, of course, Melissa.
Physically, I’ve never had much of which to be proud except my leg strength, my reflexes and my vision. Recently, though, the decay of these once glorious vestiges of my youth has come into sharp contrast. In my motorcycle lessons, an unofficial eye test revealed to me that, like my father, my eyesight is not what it once was. Before allowing us to even start the bikes, they wanted us to push them around. Although I was hoping to show off my once powerful legs, immediately I fell behind my youthful colleagues, and they frequently had to wait for this old man in decay.
Aging is a difficult thing to which to adapt, as I am currently learning. I find myself going through a kind of self-deception. I was sure I would age gracefully and more honestly than my father, all while avoiding anything that might demonstrate the effects of aging. The motorcycle lessons forced me to come face to face with those aspects that were sources of pride in my youth, abilities of which I was sure I would always be able to rely. Traits in decay.
Our society does not, in my humble opinion, show the respect for older and dying people as we should, and maybe that is our fault at least to a degree. There is not enough respect for the accomplishments of former generations, but on the flip side maybe we spend too much time dwelling on past accomplishments and not enough time demonstrating the advantages of experience. Maybe it’s not fair for me to proselytize. My “accomplishments” of youth, few and far between as they were, are not exactly worthy of epic tales like the football stories my father used to tell. As I continue the slow descent towards my grave, I feel my perspective changing. Fortunately, my greatest strength from my youth has always been my mind, and that is not showing signs of decay.
This week (tomorrow actually), I am scheduled to close on a house. This should be an opportunity to show off my experience. Growing up in my generation, we were still taught to be self-reliant and fearless do-it-yourselfers. This house should be my opportunity to practice and show off those skills. Already I’m planning on converting a spare room into a massive walk-in closet and hanging an antique style glass shower with four-head shower. And a bidet. A smart bidet so I can use the phone app when I have a friend using my bathroom. Yes, I’m THAT guy.
What’s more, there are enough rooms to make an office for myself, where I can pick up my research projects once again. I’ll never again be able to get an academic paper published (the way science is set up you have to have access to resources I could not afford to actually publish), but if my ideas work, they could have potential for sales and bringing in massive income. These projects, again, only possible with my experience, not my body.
Aging is not easy. I’m learning this the hard way. We lose too many things as we age, our eyes, our hearing and even our sex drive, but with our experience, making love with an older man would blow your mind. I think that, in my experience, it helps to accept the losses by remembering what is gained. And young people? Well, let’s be honest about this. We can’t expect them to respect us, until we respect ourselves, and them at the same time. After all, we have the experience now to understand that every generation is different. I remember excitedly playing Yellow Submarine very loud assuming my parents would enjoy it, only to get into trouble for playing it so loud. We struggled too. Isn’t it time we learn from our past?