Terminal Thoughts

The other day I made reference to the fact that I would be unlikely to be flying anywhere in 2020, and might only do so in late 2021 — and for the first time in my life, I said to myself, “…should I live that long.”

I think the most depressing thing about getting old is that you get wary of making long-term plans — the old joke “I’m so old, I don’t even buy green bananas anymore” is a perfect example — and it can be depressing.

It doesn’t have to be, of course.  A friend of my own vintage recently embarked on a business venture which involves a massive construction project, and when I asked him when the whole thing will be finished, he said airily, “About fifteen or twenty years’ time.”  If that is true, he would be around eighty years old at completion date.

I’m not sure I would do anything like that.  At the same time, I’m still buying green bananas, so to speak, so there’s that.

At some point in a person’s life, you become resigned to the fact that you’ll never climb Everest, or race at Monaco, or make a billion dollars, or sleep with some famous beauty (maybe because she just died).  Those are the big dreams, of course, and mostly — realistically, even — just pipe dreams.  Still, their disappearance is a little of a jolt;  which is probably a preparation for a much bigger disappointment when you realize that your age precludes you from doing something that you did only  little while ago.  As an example, I’m most likely never going to be able to go deer-stalking in Scotland with Mr. Free Market, Doc Russia and Combat Controller again, because the trudging over the uneven ground of the Cairngorm Mountains is, to put it mildly, unthinkable.  I made a joke about that with the guys during a telemeeting, the other day, and said that if I were to do it again, I would only ever shoot at a distance no further than 50 yards away from the Land Rover — i.e. close to the road — whereupon Mr. Free Market said bluntly, “Then you’re never going to take another shot” (because most of the stalks now involve a prospect of a mile or two’s scrambling before the deer even come within a respectable shooting distance, assuming they haven’t moved in the interim).

So goodbye to all that, then.

It’s even more poignant when you think of your approaching end with regards to family and friends, especially family.  New Wife’s elder son has given her a grandson;  my own kids’ prospect of doing the same is becoming more and more remote with each year.  That, actually, doesn’t bother me too much as I’ve never been one of those parents who pushes their kids to provide grandchildren — in fact, I specifically told mine that I would never push them that way, and I’ve kept my promise.  But it also means that I’ll never be able to do the grandfather things with grandsons that my own grandpa did with me, and that’s a little sad.

If you reach that point where you start making a mental list of “things I’m realistically never going to do”, two things are going to happen:  the first is that you’ll give a mental shrug about some of them and say, “Oh well” and realize that the left undone isn’t important — I’m never going to fly an ultralight aircraft again or take my first parachute jump, for example.

But for the others:  do not be surprised if some of them hurt (as in the grandchildren scenario above, for example).  I will in all probability never meet up with some old and valued friends ever again, simply because of geography.  I will never hunt bear in Alaska (see “Scotland”, above, for reasons) — in fact, I may never hunt anything again, except maybe high birds with Mr. FM next year — and even then, I’m going to need to save a bunch of money to be able to afford the trip, money that I’m not at all certain of making (see:  Chinkvirus and similar disasters for reasons).  And I might need not one but two years to save that money, at which time I’ll be nearly 68 years old.  Fuck.  I might not even be able to make the walk from the Range Rover to the shooting positions at that age, and my already-shaky and fast-deteriorating eyesight might make the whole proposition impossible anyway.

As one gets older, one’s options start to shrink.  I watched a feature about Paul Newman the other night;  he only started auto racing in his early fifties, and won his last race at age eighty.  That doesn’t give me any hope at all, mind you, because Paul Newman was also a zillionaire, and lots of money does have an annoying tendency to make dreams come true a lot more quickly.  For some old guy drawing a meager Social Security check and needing a side gig to make ends meet, those — maybe any — kinds of dreams become increasingly unreachable.

All of which makes the picture in my masthead a lot more poignant even than it was when I first chose it.  I am wonderfully blessed by having found New Wife so that at least I can share the rest of my life with someone I love;  but figuratively speaking, our age might just cause us both to be confined to that lonely bench because with age, options disappear, horizons shrink and dreams fall apart.

And what happens when you can no longer afford green bananas?

41 comments

  1. I turned 65 this past Jan and I found this article both assuring and disappointing. Assuring in that I am not alone in my daily thoughts on this subject, and disappointing by way of clarifying my thoughts. Recently I was talking to a friend in his early 50’s (an age I was seemingly just last week) about wanting to purchase a revolver but I thought “I already have a bunch of guns that I don’t shoot as much as I have in the past, so why spend more money on another gun that won’t get used?”. Same with a wood planer for my work shop – I’ve spent all of my life working wood without a planer, why get one now? And on and on.

    Depressingly, I spend quite a bit of time each day feeling sorry for myself over all this aging stuff and wish I could just stop. I keep thinking it’s just a phase I’m going through, since turning 65, and I will get over it eventually. But it persists, and I don’t like it.

    The sun is rising higher in the sky each day and the temps are rising too, and I’m getting outside more and more and perhaps this dark gray funk that has enveloped me will burn off. I hope so.

  2. Fear not the future dear friend not yet met.

    Having just crossed the 68 barrier last month, one finds that smaller immediate tasks IE finishing off two vehicle rebuilds, completing assembly/bluing of a CETME and selling off near 100 years worth of accumulated “stuff” take up just enough time to keep one’s mind off that future precipice. Substitute whatever activity gets your ticker going.

    Yes, the aches and pains increase so one has to combat that with extra effort to remain mobile, but the fact you can get out of bed this morning is a gift. Remember, every ache was earned in our youth, we are just paying for it a bit later is all. As to 2021 – plan on going, a year out one never knows what good fortunes may transpire.

  3. I’m 67 and my options did not start to shrink, they just changed. There are still eleventy billion things I want to do. I have just started learning ballroom dancing at wifey’s insistence, which insistence recently started 37 years ago. It’s actually quite fun. I can’t run anymore so I lost a lot of weight and took up longer distance walking. I do a pub crawl the way God intended, walking to a pub 3 or 4 hours away, having 2 pints and taking an uber, taxi or bus home.

    Finally learned how to properly handle and maintain a chainsaw so I’m clearing some land I own in BC and selling the firewood at a local country market. No money in it but I get to spend the day yakking with the other old farts at the market.

    Anyway, you’re remarried, so don’t worry, there will be plenty of “suggestions” for things you can do.

  4. I’m a firm believer in the Brother Dave Garner school of aging, to wit, “I’m gonna go like hell until the day I die; then I’m taper off slow.”
    Beside I’ve got 20K+ rounds of .22 to dispose of… and my daughter has threatened to disown me after I die if I don’t get rid of my (gun)stuff before…

  5. For me, the realization that age is getting the better of me comes from the day-to-day things.

    I look in the mirror every day and I see the Me that’s been looking back at me since I was in my thirty’s, nearly forty years now. And where I used to look in that mirror early in the morning then head out to meet my day, now my mirror and I meet each other numerous times in the early morning hours as Nature calls, all I have to fay, he’s beginning to look a little ragged.

    It’s the everyday things that are beginning to remind me that there is less time ahead of me than there is behind me. I’m pretty close to paying off my car, probably the last car I’ll ever buy. Over the past year, my household had to replace a dishwasher, air conditioner, and just yesterday, a refrigerator, and, barring a catastrophe, I’ll probably never need to do any of those things again.

    I find myself contemplating the “treasures” I’ve accumulated over so many years and wondering what will come of it all. Who might want it? Will anyone want it? Face it, most of what I have even groups like Goodwill would pass on. My collection of firearms is small, but I don’t know of anyone who might want it, as they have their own, and I don’t think I want to sell it off to anyone who doesn’t know what they mean to me.

    As you said, there are things I probably won’t purchase, trips I won’t take, and people I probably will not see in person anymore. I look back and wish I’d taken my own advice: Never get old! Party like a rock star and burn out like a meteor!

  6. I am 75 next month, beat up, cut up from cancer surgeries, with aches and pains in shoulders and hips and enjoying my life as much or more than ever. I still hunt doves, do some competition Steel Challenge, will never hunt deer again, I am happy to go along but I have shot enough of them. After living a better than average life style with a lot of been there and done that my wife and I have a nice small scale life in a good place in the Texas Hill Country, we kind of slid into home plate, living a sufficient life style in reasonable health. We make no demands on our grown kids and their kids, six grandkids now, we see them when we see them and let them live their lives.

    It’s also nice to live on a small budget that is sufficient enough to purchase a little bit of ammunition every month and to build a little bit up to buy the last gun I will ever need to buy every year or so. My lovely wife laughs at me every time I purchase my last gun and I never dreamed I would ever live to be 75 but my brother who turns 86 next month says the same thing, never thought he would be this old, and two years ago he bought his last Corvette and he has been driving those things for over 55 years.

  7. Geez, are all the people who gather here about the same age? I will be 70 shortly, and am happy to be where I am. I still shoot, ski and scuba dive and enjoy the perspective my time on the planet has given me. The thought of retiring has no appeal ( I teach machining at a community college)and I appreciate what time I do have off very much.

    I propose we schedule a blog shoot in the great state of Texas to meet and hash these issues out. I suspect at such a gathering much wisdom will be gained. Or barbecue eaten, or beverages consumed or all of those.

    1. Brilliant idea on the meetup!

      As for Kim’s article, I can only say Amen, Brother.

    2. I’m good for it if you Texans will allow me to cross the Red River. It would be a good chance for me to wear my BBQ gun.

  8. You’ve put quite succinctly into words the the underlying feeling I’ve had since turning 60 late last year. Although I am still in relatively good health and have been told by both sexes that I don’t look anywhere near my age, I know my horizons are not as limitless as they used to seem, and I’m okay with that. Old age has a way of winnowing down the distractions of life, at least to those who pay attention, and showing what really matters. I’m not ready for the funeral pyre just yet, but I know it’s lurking out there somewhere; I will keep dodging said pyre as long as possible.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I will finish the morning’s coffee.

  9. Kim, I’m looking forward to watching the 2024 total solar eclipse with you in Plano. So don’t you dare die on me!

  10. A common refrain on another blog I read is “DFTR” (Don’t Fear The Reaper). And I don’t, however I don’t intend to knowingly deal him any face cards either.

    When it rains, it pours. Mother’s Day tomorrow, wife’s birthday on the 13th, mine on the 15th. I will turn 67. I remind myself from time to time to be grateful that I still have choices. The faucet in our kitchen sink needed replacing a few weeks back, and I was able to do that myself.

    I still have the 10-speed bike I rode in college. I have cleaned and lubed it up, and have been riding around our neighborhood. Felt good to get my heart rate up. My lovely wife decided she would like to join me, so we got her a new bike. I jogged along side her holding on to the handle bar for a short distance on her first ride. We both need to have a care about balance.

    My game was NRA Highpower Rifle. Got my Master card in 1990. It is a young(er) man’s game, and my last match was long ago. That’s OK, life goes on. I get just as much enjoyment teaching younger folks what I have learned. As I am fond of saying, “I used to tell war stories. Now I teach history”.

    I have cataracts in both eyes that I will need to deal with. Looking forward to being able to see the iron sights on my lever guns again. Still on my to list is to take you up on your invitation to join you at the range.

    Heh. Thank God for the edit function.

    1. Took care of the cataracts last Fall, and now have something between 20/20 and 20/30 in both eyes after a lifetime of severe myopia started wearing bi-focals in Jr.High. Haven’t gone to the range yet as the current emergency cancelled my hoped-to-be final exam with the eye doc in March, but looking forward to that event.

    2. Do the cataract surgery. Sooner, not later. It makes a massive difference in quality of life.

  11. A ‘Kim Blog Folk’ meetup and shoot of some sort will be great. I live a five hour drive South of Dallas and once this Murder Hornet and Kung Fo Flu stuff is over you can count me in. I am in the mood for a fun road trip !

  12. “…options disappear, horizons shrink and dreams fall apart.”
    .
    Not really. Certain physical and intellectual feats may now be beyond reach, but we still are capable of complaining about it. To wit: just as my first enlistment was drawing to a close, the Berlin Wall went up and we all were involuntarily extended on tour for a year. What the hell, Guam was good.
    .

  13. We’re about the same age, Kim, and boy, do I hear ya. As for the bananas, well, I made a nice banana pudding the other night, and I was proud of myself for doing so. LOL

  14. Ouch….that was depressing. I am 68 and yeah getting old sucks but consider the alternative. Hell, I’ve had a pretty good life. Probabaly a notch or two better than my old man. Made some money, had a nice title before I told the owner to go eff himself. Married a wonderful woman who gave me two kids. Have 50 pretty damn nice guns and a ton of ammo. Have a bunch of pristene Randall knives and a Puma White Hunter for starters ! Hell I just missed TWO freaking bombings at the WTC ! 20 neighbors in my town didnt come home in 2001. Couple of customers. Worked a dozen different jobs. Had co-workers shot and killed when I spent 5 yrs working LE for the Feds. Dang I am doing better at my age than about 10k other folks. Just visit a hospital or the Salvation Army and look around. I am blessed. Truely blessed.

    Stick with me on this…last year I was getting flack from my youngest about getting rid of stuff. The Bible quote app I get came up a day later. John 3:17-18 Read it. Then I saw a SF guy on TV having to defend his actions yrs ago from a commie Muslim POS congresswoman. He later mentioned he didn’t own a Randall but it had been “required” for Green Berets back in the day. All this in one week. The good Lord has his ways. So I grabbed a beautiful Randall from my collection and sent it to him. It made him happy. It made me happy. So DO A GOOD DEED every damn day you are alive. Don’t be a miserable grumpy old man. SMILE. And count your blessings !

  15. Not to get too personal, but my heart bleeds red, white, and blue borscht for you. I turned 79 a couple of months ago and I’m out at the range practising with my 10mm every day; I reload ’em ’til they’re falling apart.
    Within the past couple of years I’ve had open heart surgery to replace a valve, found I’d come down with Myasthenia gravis (what a bitch of a disease – it had to be bulbar since I’m a retired dentist, Murphy loves his payback), and had a Whipple procedure to remove half my guts to combat a type of pancreatic cancer (pancreatic neuro-endocrine tumors) – think Steve Jobs.
    The purpose of the foregoing is not to ask for your rachmones, but to let you know I’m still purchasing green banana futures and intend to continue ’til they put me in the pine box.

  16. Since I almost died at 19 I have viewed every day since as a gift. I have already done things I did not think I would ever get done.

    But I am starting to think I will not have much longer to run, but we shall see. I have guns I need to shoot and other things I would like to do so we will see if I can get the list pared down some.

    The line I heard and liked is “don’t die before you are dead” and I think I might make it my motto.

    Keep up the good fight as it might rub off on someone younger.

    I am 64 BTW

  17. 73 here. But my mother is still sharp as a tack at 97 and her sister made it to 102 so maybe I’ve got the same good genes. But I’m still checking off bucket list items as fast as possible. Do things now while I still can.

    PLN stopped driving race cars at 80 because after a 2 hour session in a full on IMSA race car you feel like you’ve been in an ” all day plane crash”. It really beats you up. So do the hard things now. I’m getting to old to care about what other people think of my behavior. If it’s on your list. go for it.

  18. Were the same age, 65, and I’ve been a hermit since my wife died 5 years ago. My youngest daughter has kept me focused on not giving up on living completely, but I noticed the deterioration in many things and I didnt care until this winter for some reason. I knew I had to do something to get the ticker pumping and my body moving again. Not moving enough kills you quick and dulls your mind..

    I built an E bike this winter for that purpose. I haven’t ridden a bike since 75 stationed in Udorn Thailand. I had convinced myself that it was going to be a painful start but it would be worth it in the end. I was wrong, its not been painful at all. When my legs really burn going up hills, the throttle pulls me to the top and I start peddling again. I do an 8 mile loop in 32 min, and when I get home I’m breathing hard, my heart is pounding and my legs tremble for a good 15 min afterwards. This is the workout I was looking for, and surprisingly nothing hurts later.

    I look forward to riding but its Minnesota and its gotten cold again for the next week, but after riding about 60 miles so far this spring, I see many changes in me. Energy levels are going up, feeling more alive. Mentally, its made me less satisfied with doing nothing and thinking about what I should do next. You can do anything you set you mind to doing. Fly the ultralight, make the parachute jump. If it kills you, you will be remembered for doing what you wanted on your terms for a couple of generations maybe.

  19. 77 next month.
    I have hard time walking to the fifty yard target stand.
    Lost the kids mother after 35 years of a successful life.
    Lost The Bride after 20.
    Worked since 15 including 5 for uncle sugar, apprentice to CEO.
    Sitting here, alone, looking back with a smile. Looking ahead not very far.
    I would make one last trip from Cal to Texas to shoot with you and a few of folks of same mindset.
    A little good bourbon after the range couldn’t hurt.

  20. And what happens when you can no longer afford green bananas?

    You steal them.

    Although I’m at the middle of this thing for my particular race I’ve had to observe a lot of people finishing the race in the last few years. No small number of them gave up in their mid sixties and then botched things so that they lived to 90 or more. Don’t spend 30 years spinning your wheels because you thought you were going to run out of gas.

    Plant trees even if you think you won’t eat the fruit.
    Lay the foundations for homes you may never live in.
    Put wine in the barrel for your children to drink.

  21. Seems I’m the youngster here at 59. Gotta admit the ground is getting farther down and getting out from under airplanes is getting harder after 40+ years of doing it. The Alaskan bear hunt is available if you’re willing…just c’mon up. Most of the guys I know just ATV in to their stands. Mostly black bear with the occaisional grizz in the Interior where I live, but the offer’s there.
    I’m up for a gathering if it happens. Haven’t been to Texas since 1995…

  22. I’m literally about to get in the car and go celebrate my father in laws 100th birthday today. He flew spitfires with 485 squadron during ww2.

    His advice to me years ago was “do it today, enjoy it today” as we all know that over time your choices diminish.

    Some things you don’t get to choose. I was ambivalent about grandkids till the little monsters turned up. Every minute with them has been a joy and a blessing.

    1. Wow, flying Spitfires and still going, the last Jimmy Doolittle raider lived 20 miles from us here in the Texas Hill Country and passed away last year, he was good friends with one of my buddies.

  23. Oh, to be 68 again…..I’d be going down to the Ducati dealer and riding home on a new V4S!

  24. I am 2 years younger than you,Kim,and get the same thoughts. I am heading down physically especially the legs. I think about it but you may die tomorrow as has been one’s whole life. My money and guns have homes so I am ready. No use worryingly about it.

  25. P2, I’ve got you beat. I’m 56. But I’m perhaps 30 months from retiring…at least from the first job. 42 years with the U.S. Government working for the Navy. Not sure what I’ll do after that. I really don’t want to contract out, not full-time. Part-time consultant, yes. Teach shooting, perhaps. Keep involved with the North-South Skirmish Association and the Muzzle-Loading Associations International Confederation, definitely.

    Things on the To Do List: Shoot the NMLRA matches at Friendship a few times. Get back into flying. Fly aerobatics and a long cross-country. See the parts of Europe I haven’t visited – Scotland, Greece, Prague.

    Maybe it’s time to go into politics. 🙂

    I’ll add one thing. It’s said that Admiral Collingwood, in the late 1700s, would take a pocket full of acorns when he walked his estates. He’d plant one wherever he found a good site for an oak tree. Because it took 200 years to grow a proper mainmast for a ship of the line…which meant that there was no time to lose.

    1. When I was fifty-six, I was one semester away from graduating with a B.A. — with a Masters and a teaching career in Paris in my future.

      It’s when you’re SIXTY-SIX that it seems your windows are starting to close.

  26. Last summer I posted on the Book of Face that the weather had finally cleared enough that I could mow the lawn. A college friend of mine opined “We’re too old to be cutting grass”, we’re the same age, 56. Got me to thinking (bad idea).

    I don’t think you’re ever too OLD to do anything, although you MAY be too unhealthy to do certain things. If you have medical issues (heart troubles for instance) that make it ill-advised to push around a lawn mower, then you hire that job out, but you can have those issues at ANY age (I know someone who had open heart surgery in his 20s). So if you’re physically incapable of doing something, that’s a health issue, not an age issue. A 25 year old who banged up his knees isn’t going to make that hunting trip any more than you are.

    As for other things we’ll never get to do, you need to ask yourself if you’d have done those things when you were younger, given the opportunity. If not, then age has nothing to do with it. And as for the bedding of famous beauties, honestly was that EVER an option?

    One might even say that as you age you’re MORE likely to do certain things, skydiving for instance. When you were younger you had to consider what would happen to your family should things go pear-shaped, leaving your children without a father. Once they’re grown and on their own that’s no longer the consideration it once was.

    On a final note, my Dad used to say that after the age of 50 he felt good if he got up in the morning and nothing NEW hurt, and that if nothing at all hurt it meant he probably died during the night.

    1. Yup. Spot on. As I said above just check out some 19 yr old kid who got his face blown off in the sandbox or lost both legs and an arm. Who can’t wipe his own ass. Never forget 40 yrs ago I worked with a guy who was brilliant. Getting a PHD in engineering. But he had been drafted into the Army and went to VietNam. Hit with a mortar round and got his guts literally blown out of him. Won’t even describe what he had to go thru everyday. Count your blessings folks !

      1. I’m so sorry I didn’t step on a landmine in Namibia and get my legs blown off. Sadly, I survived all that, and now I’m selfishly griping about the fact that I’ll never win Wimbledon or shag Christie Brinkley.

        Jesus wept.

        1. Wimbledon….you’ll probably have to let that one go unless that come up with a Fossil Division.
          As to Christie, never can tell when a woman might change her mind.

Comments are closed.