Granted there were requisite battlements which would pop up. Things like losing time off my best mile when running and losing hair in the bathroom sink. But I considered them brief skirmishes of curiosity rather than Roman soldier advancement.
And then I turned thirty.
There is a moment of realization, always. And Father Time accords himself in much the same manner as the school bully come three o’clock. It comes with the recognition that all nighters and marathon sex have become artifacts of an exceedingly less relevant past.
Mine came in late February of ’97. A seemingly innocuous set of days in the dead of big snow and sub freezing temps. I had navigated an early stretch of self inflicted blunders that month in which I surrendered to the retail house advantage by purchasing a snow blower. This was followed by an ill timed Valentines Day weekend surprise for the wife which was thrown a sweaty curve ball by my two year old son’s raging fever.
I’d navigated it well enough by recouping a tasty fraction of my snow blower debacle when I lent it out to a friend who lived upstate in exchange for a case of Heineken.The Poconos became a staycation rendezvous with the wife. And I caught Zen in a bottle by transforming the thankless third shift of diapers and feedings into west coast NBA games and meditation.
The arguments that Father Time was watching? Pfft, that was nothing more than the apocryphal snippets of some woebegone urban legend. Or so I thought.
My ignorance received its Waterloo bill as I was watching the celebrity screening of the movie Private Parts on MTV. It was my night off from the babies so I was staying up past eight. And then Poe came dancing across my chest. I was having a . . . heart attack?
I called my sister for a little semi professional advice. My little sister is all of 5 foot and 2 inches tippy toe, but I look up to her in bunches. She talked me down off the ledge of death I had climbed on and then broke it to me in the gentlest way she knew.
“You’re having a panic attack, you asshole.”
You really have to know the girl to know how much this meant, and still means to me. She is one of the favorite people in my life for a reason. She always gives it to me straight. Now, if only doctors possessed such bedside manner.
Of course that’s what it was, I was having a panic attack. But with that recognition came another seeping thought. I was getting older. It was the first time in my life I had considered the Iron Curtain providence of such a thing.
The massive heft of mortality could’ve run my credit card bill dry if I’d let it. But truth be told, it lasted all of that one night. After which I was too busy laughing up the story sis had provided to dwell on the bullshit of worrying about something I couldn’t control.
And so when I turned forty, it was sans the black balloons and predictable stories. I didn’t run out to buy a souped up Sally ridden chassis with more horse power than a chariot race could offer. I didn’t feel the need to remedy the depressing thoughts administered by my birth certificate with any manner of material compensation at all.
Cause it wasn’t about that. At all.
When I think about getting older, that classic Kathy Bates line from Fried Green Tomatoes comes to mind. It’s the one where she rams into the VW after a couple of young ladies steal her parking space and then boast that they’re younger and faster. To which she counters with “Face it girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.”
You’ve got to have a few years on you to understand the brilliantly gilded framing of such a timeless thought as that.