Youth! Make no mistake – being young at heart doesn’t cut it! Youth is like money and things, you can’t have both. Most people with whom I now associate are old; and some of them have a lot of money. Which is to say, they’re not young. In the elevator it’s an elderly woman with platinum dyed blonde hair closely resembling a wig, her face wrinkled beneath cosmetic; she shares a pleasant greeting sharpened by a disparaging comment about spring cleaning. On the telephone it’s a chap I have known for over forty years, a man with a persistent stutter; a mere glance at our past is instantly enriched with one thousand images of business, contracts and meetings. With whomever I communicate by email we’re certain to be of an age, perhaps friends or just acquaintances but not my physician, accountant or financial advisor all of whom are much younger than I (their predecessors and my former confidants having retired). Even swimming in the pool the athletic swimmer – a stranger- told me he was 76 years of age and a former hockey player so ancient I recollected the names of other players. The predominance of people I pass on the bicycle path and with whom I share a cheery greeting are gray haired and bent. The fellow in the parking lot, another interloper newly arrived, is thin and tall. And old.
When encountering youth it is always a curiosity so estranged am I from them, their habits, vernacular and apparel. The gaggle of young and sylphlike school girls in insubstantial clothing carrying iPhones to which they are exceptionally glued, all the while blathering incoherently, punctuated with hysterical screams but never deigning to look in the direction of the old person passing by struggling to preserve his exhausted decorum. The group of taut young men throwing a football or frisby to one another, hooting wildly, calling one another “Bro”, some of them bare chested obviously displaying their winsomeness; nearby an empty bottle of beer discarded on its side. The children comically yelling and squeaking to one another, always one who leads the pack saying “First we do this”; and the smallest child who lingers on the side absorbed in something on the ground.
It is not infrequently observed that we never see ourselves as getting old; that we consider mysteriously having never changed from what we were – inside naturally, in our mind; that somehow we got into this mess by a peculiar evolution about which we were not consulted. And how indeed did it all happen? When was the line drawn between then and now, how do we explain the evaporation? When exactly did we stop being like them? When did our ballet motions become contaminated by decomposition, aches and pains and immobility? When did we become old?
The relieving dinkum oil is that few of us old fogeys pine to turn back the clock or alter the outcome. Every morning is for me a triumph, an unwitting success and one for which I am frightfully grateful. I may have not beaten the clock but I’ve swindled a gem from the jaws of Fate! Out of the ingredients of my past I’ve managed to preserve what is best for me, what works for me, what satisfies my appetite for expression. I see the world differently now. I never noticed youth until now! Never until now was I amazed at the dexterity and the extent of application they possess!
Most old people whom I know are content to bear the deprivation of the past. Let’s face it, being young was work! It was constant motion and promotion; youth was an aggression; viz., pugnacious, combative and truculent. I distinctly recall studying at my desk at three o’clock in the morning; and working in my office until after midnight. Vacations were short and a rush making it burdensome to get back in the groove. Participation was a necessity. There was always something to learn – both good and bad. Youth was a money pit and a source of constant maintenance and improvement. There were appointments and agenda! There was uncertainty!
No one over the age of seventy should suffer uncertainty. Nor should it be necessary to explain why. The future is by any account clear and predictable. There is but one project remaining; time has run out for research. I entertain myself to picture a decanter of Dry Sack in the drawing room; and, a panetella on a crystal ashtray. One day I shall wear my Tilly raffia hat – perhaps as soon as next winter in Key Largo – to shelter myself from the blistering sun.
A cigar is a rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco leaves made to be smoked. Cigars are produced in a variety of sizes and shapes. Since the 20th century, almost all cigars are made of three distinct components: the filler, the binder leaf which holds the filler together, and a wrapper leaf, which is often the highest quality leaf used. Often there will be a cigar band printed with the cigar manufacturer’s logo. Modern cigars often come with two bands, especially Cuban cigar bands, showing Limited Edition (Edición Limitada) bands displaying the year of production.
These whimsical fabrications are but metaphors for being in bed by ten o’clock and up by seven o’clock the following morning; eating but two meals a day, lots of fruit, veggies and bran – and the occasional piece of carrot cake; doing something to stretch the parts; reading, reading and reading; sharing the magnificence of the day with whomever one meets. And confessing the ineffable pleasure of it all! The issue is not how did we become so old but why did it take so long! Old age is an unfathomable resort of precious limits and qualified government. Youth was but the germination. The old tree with its grizzled bark and tortured branches has stood the test. We sway with the wind; we shelter the sprouts; our meaning has taken root. We live for the future!