Monday, July 30, 2012

When Did I Grow Up?

          I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but somewhere along the way I became middle-aged.  Of course, I don’t think of myself that way.  I mean, I plan on living until I’m 150, so really I would need to be seventy-five to be considered middle-aged.  That is my logic, at least.  However, the kids think I passed middle-age twenty years ago and have reached assistant living age.

          When did this happen?  Just yesterday I was walking to school dreading every step along the weed-ridden sidewalk.  I was skipping classes and performing in the ensemble for organizations that were donating money so we could take a trip to New York.  I was looking forward to graduation and getting my first car and then not getting caught in the backseat of that same car.  Wasn’t that yesterday?
          I’m not so old that I don’t remember all of the life events that have piled on top of each other.  I recall wearing that blue cap and gown and watching as people around me hugged and cried as they were leaving their friend’s behind.  It was the first step in a long line of events that lead to me sitting on the back porch wondering where all of my grown children came from.
          I see my wedding and the subsequent birth of each child, those first days of school and the decision to home school for a few years as well as the push to get them back into a classroom and out of my kitchen.  I see the skinned knees as they learned to ride bikes and the dented bumpers as bikes became cars.  It was their turn to graduate and get that first job.  One has even gotten married.  He’s twenty-three and I still think I’m twenty-one.
          I’m not, I know.  The mirror reminds me every morning and it’s not the only blabbermouth.  No, the scale likes to call attention to my years eating rich, sugary foods, as well.  They aren’t gentle about it, either.  They are harsh and cruel, taking great delight in reminding me that I’m not a spring chicken anymore, just a cocky rooster.  I know, I’m not young anymore, but a guy can pretend, can’t he?
           The scale I can avoid.  It’s easy; I just don’t step on it.  When I graduated high school, I had a twenty-eight waist and you could literally see my heart beat if you stared at my chest.  My arms and legs were toothpicks that looked as if they were stuck into a white raisin.  My elbows were bigger than my biceps and could probably lift more. 
          Now, when I step on the scale it screams.  My waist has shot to a thirty-six and that’s only because I would rather suck in my gut all day than admit to being a thirty-eight.  I skipped the six-pack abs and went straight to a baby keg.  However, I can ignore the scolding scale by hiding it in a corner and putting a potted plant on it.
          The mirror, on the other hand, cannot be avoided and it makes up for the scale as if it knows I’m ditching its friend.  It shows me every gray hair and when that hair is wet it points its finger at the bald spots under the thinning follicles.  I remember in high school I had hair well past my shoulders.  Now, I’m lucky if I can get it to reach my shirt collar.  Furthermore, I’ve got gray hair where there should never be gray hair.
           Anyone who knows me or who have read the Mess long enough knows that I have never been the athletic one.  Others could get sweaty knocking each other around on the field.  I’d rather be in the stands with my hand around some cute girl’s waist or rather under the stands with my hands somewhere more personal.  However, where I used to be able to spring off of the couch and run out the door to some new adventure.  Now, if the house caught fire I’d die of smoke inhalation before I could get my fat ass off the cushions.  When my youngest son and I wrestle, I have to sit on him pinning him to the floor with my weight while I catch my breath.  Luckily, he surrenders long before he finds out how close I am to tapping out.  I used to be able to take all three boys on at the same time and never breathe hard.  Now I need oxygen afterward.
I'm too old for this shit!
           The signs are there.  I’m getting old.  I live the clichés:  walking into a room and forgetting why I went in there in the first place, losing my train of thought in mid-sentence, and knowing I know her name because I married her, but for the life of me at the moment it slips my brain cells.  Of course, those are probably grayer than the hair in my goatee.  Yet, although my body feels the advance of years, my mind sometimes pretends it just left high school.  The kids say I behave that way, as well.
           When did those years slip by me?  I walk around the house turning off lights when I should be tucking the boys into bed and reading them a story.  I’d do it now, but I think the wife and boyfriend might get upset.  The toys on the floor aren’t theirs, they are mine, and well, it’s usually my mess the girls are cleaning up.  Why?  Because the boys have grown up, as well, which makes me feel even older yet.
           But I don’t know when it happened.  It’s almost as if I have those years before me still; except, I don’t.  They’re gone and regardless how I “feel” they are not returning.  It’s because of these feelings, this grasping for lost time that I tell our children don’t wait.  Don’t put your dreams off until after - college, marriage, kids, finances, etc.  Do it now, whatever “it” is, because although you’ll feel like you have forever, before you know it, you’ll be all grown up.
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