Ain't Dead Yet
I know that I am still alive because I get worked up about opening day at Fenway, double chocolate chip mint ice cream, bourbon and branch water, the first boil in sugaring season, and the opportunity to stand in a 35-degree trout stream in April. And I haven't forgotten the recipe for nutmeg doughnuts, the refrain from "In the Garden," why I get up in the morning, or who butters my bread. I still enjoy light pancakes, heavy lifting, cold weather, hot biscuits, hard rain, soft cheese, long days, short breads, the first snow, the last bale, the big storm, the small gesture, and a swift kick in the pants when I'm moving too slowly.
I can still remember my age, my middle name, my phone number, and my kids' birthdays but admit that for the life of me I can't remember why we need Lemon Pledge, automatic transmissions, Pop-Tarts, the Osmond family, think tanks, Hot Pockets, the Department of Homeland Security, or safety instructions for sunscreen, toothpaste, and shaving cream. I can also remember seeing the price of gas at 27 cents a gallon, paying a nickel for a cherry Coke at the soda fountain, riding in my father's Nash, watching Arthur Godfrey, and using the Winky Dink coloring kit to write on the screen of our small black-and-white TV set.
I'm still not old enough to understand string theory, anything about the Holy Ghost, toilet-bowl cleaner, restaurant critics, the Shriners, catalytic converters, AC versus DC, organic chemistry, smokeless tobacco, or the reason why women are in a panic to check their voice mail after only a weekend away.
Someday, when I am older, I hope I will be able to recognize the constellations, identify bird songs, tie a dozen sailor's knots, tell the difference between a ketch and a sloop, master the art of making puff pastry, and remember the names of people I have known for years. I also still hold out faint hope of being invited to the White House, being included in a top 10 list, and having Reese Witherspoon call to say she wants me to costar in her next movie.
I am still looking forward to the future. That's when I'll finally finish my children's book, build my cabin, and complete the Dodge HEMI kit, with its 300 pieces, electric motor, and authentic HEMI sound chip. I will also finish organizing my garage, wax my car, have a serious talk with my son, clean my closets, and find time to scout for wild turkey and deer before the start of the season. The future will also be a good time to make amends, pay my dues, and think for myself.
In years to come, I also plan to ride horseback from our farm to Canada, run the Boston Marathon, and take my Indian motorcycle cross-country. I am still much too young, however, to consider motor homes, Florida, retirement communities, Arizona, Sansabelt pants, the idea of sitting down to dinner before sunset, San Diego, golf, cruises, letters from the AARP, and the pros and cons of burial versus cremation. I do hope, however, that if Martha Reeves is still around she will sing "Dancing in the Street" at my funeral. (If you get the chance, please mention this to my kids.) If she dies first, I promise to cook at her wake.
I know I am still young because my wife tells me daily to grow up, especially when I start planning the motorcycle trip. I am also confident that I have sufficient time left to recover from a steady diet of Slim Jims, bacon, fried buttermilk chicken, Old-Fashioned cocktails, and secondhand smoke. Someday, I know I will be able to jog three miles in less than 20 minutes, lose 10 pounds, stop purchasing relaxed-fit jeans, and start buying shorter belts. I will also lose my taste for cupcakes, Boston cream pie, raspberry bars, lemon meringue pie, Mallo Cups, and anything cooked in duck fat.
I also know that I ain't dead yet because "old people" are different from me. Their knees hurt, they plan their trips up and down stairs carefully (so as not to forget something on an upper floor), they worry about slipping on ice, they take every opportunity to visit a bathroom when traveling, and they find small children burdensome. (OK, well, maybe that list does seem a bit familiar.)
As further proof of my youth, I still don't understand my parents, save for retirement, or buy life insurance. I don't like Frank Sinatra, remember World War II, or argue about whether Franklin Roosevelt was a socialist. I do, however, note that when I discuss "where I was when Kennedy was shot" with my peers, younger people drift away. They do the same thing when the subject is Watergate, Sam Cooke, Fillmore East, Carnaby Street, The Ed Sullivan Show, Walter Cronkite, or Meet the Beatles! They just don't know their history.
I am just old enough, however, to know that of all the millions of kids my wife and I could have had, we had just the four we wanted. But I'm not yet wise enough to say the same thing about her (although it's true). And I am still too young to have learned humility, the art of being grateful, or an appreciation for the incredible miracle of life. Well, this all just takes time. And that's the great thing about being young. We think that we still have so much of it left.