“I’m growing dimmer in the eyes, I’m growing fainter in my talk…”
“Don’t sit down like that! It makes you sound old.” My landlord was working in my apartment, and his comment puzzled me briefly. I then realized it was probably the result of some “woof,” or “wargh” I had expelled as I sat down. The comment was stacked atop some recent reminders of my advance into my 8th decade of life. The disease of gout has been inflaming the joints of my toes for some time, but I’ve soldiered on. Gout, loath to be ignored, launched more vicious attacks against my elbow, hand and knees. When I recently limped into my son’s house, he exclaimed, “Wow, Dad: you look your age, now.”
“I’m growing deeper in my sighs, I’m growing slower in my walk…”
My doctor, who solidifies my passion for her each time she says, “you don’t look your age,” has been arming me with the tools needed to combat the disease, but gout has established a firm beachhead in my body, grimly determined to make me whimper and limp, and look — aged. I’ve never been one to try to conceal my age; I’ve earned every day, and want full credit for the life I’ve lived, however tattered and ignoble. When a cousin of mine asked my age recently, she refused to believe what I told her. “If I was going to lie about my age,” I asked her, “why would I lie forward? Wouldn’t I lie backward?”
The subject of age and aging is the gentle current that flows through the writings of this paper’s columnist, Rose Mary Clarke, who has, as she wrote recently, “mined her youth.” The ore that mining has yielded is the rich memory of a life fully lived. As for me, I have more work to do, and I resent the encroaching infirmities that restrict my passage through the job site. I’ve no desire to revisit the leaping and gamboling of my youth, but I’d still enjoy a pain-free amble to the corner store. As the poet Leigh Hunt wrote, time is a “thief who loves to get sweets into (its) list,” and one of its “sweets” is the limiting of my mobility.
When I was young man in Pittsburgh, PA., I used to fall asleep listening to Tony Mowod play jazz on radio station WYDD. One of the most mournful and beautiful songs he played was “I’m Growing Old.” I have not found the identity of the artist — I thought it was Bill Henderson, but he says it is not — but I found the John Godfrey Saxe poem that inspired it.
“I’m growing drowsy in my chair, and I no longer ponder life,
I still save a lock of hair, but I seldom dream about my wife.”
I have set out the words to the song in the way that I remember it, delivered by the warm voice of that unknown singer. But it occurs to me now, that, when I was “green, and dying,” I could not have imagined that the song of my youth, about age and aging, would survive unchanged in my memory for more than fifty years, until I reached the time chronicled in the melody.
“I’m growing careless in my dress, I’m growing mindful of the cold;
I’m growing wise, I’m growing yes – I’m growing old.”
In my book-cramped apartment there is no chair large enough for me to grow drowsy in, but I snag “old-man naps” at will, and with pride. And though not necessarily wise, I am indeed, steadily and happily, growing old.
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