Last month, I celebrated a birthday. (No need for congratulations, I wasn’t looking for accolades. Besides, with any luck, another one will roll around sooner than I’d like.) This birthday, while not a “milestone” (21, 40, 50, etc.), certainly reminded me that I’m not—by any stretch of the imagination—getting chronologically younger or even “staying put” (a phrase which hints at my vintage).
My current age is a prime number, which means nothing except that when I hear that term—prime number—it makes me think of smaller numbers like 7 or 19 or 37. (Spoiler alert: prime numbers can be big, too.) Beyond that, I had no reason for telling you this.
Anyway, either because I feel pretty darn good at my age (no bragging yet pretty happy about it, nonetheless) or thanks to a healthy dose of late-middle-age denial, I’ve adopted the “age isn’t a number, it’s a feeling” approach to life. That is, I try not to let the number dictate my mood, health, ideology or general outlook on what I’ve accomplished or experienced thus far, or how long I have left to do or experience “everything else.”
For the most part, it’s working. I do feel good, not just for my age, but also in spite of it. But as time passes, I do feel myself talking about things and telling stories that happened “back in the day,” or what my folks called the “good old days.”
This, lately anyway, has made me feel strange; not old, just a tad out of touch with the younger set.
It’s generally not a problem with my contemporaries, those people who remember (and relish) riding their chopper-style bikes around the neighborhood, using dinnertime and “when the streetlights come on” as indicators to get home, or didn’t think it was strange that our high school had a designated smoking area for students.
As a sports fan, I remember the ABA (a rogue, alternative league to the NBA that produced such basketball greats as Rick Barry, Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore and many more), which pioneered the three-point shot and used a red, white and blue basketball. These days, as a “something-generian,” I ask myself questions like, “How come the NBA saw fit to adopt the three-pointer but never went for the multi-colored ball? It looked so cool sailing through the air.”
For the record, as a kid I owned a red, white and blue basketball, and it was ALWAYS the one chosen for pickup games at the playground. But, man, sometimes the “establishment” just doesn’t get it, am I right? And let me tell you, the ABA was a far cry from being the “establishment” in those days … the “good old days.” For more on that, read the book Loose Balls by Terry Pluto, the quintessential history of the ABA.
ASIDE: I know you won’t read the book. That’s OK, I feel like I’d be doing both you and Pluto a disservice by not mentioning it.
And speaking of Pluto, I remember when it was still a planet, and there was NO ARGUMENT about it. It was one of the big nine, included in all our Solar System models in school. So, what happened? Now it’s just a spinning ball of rock and gas to be forgotten like … well, the ABA and its multi-colored ball?
These things, among many, many, MANY others, are the ones that remind me of my chronological age vs. my biological age. These are the things that make me smile when I’m talking to others who shared these experiences; people who collected coins or beers cans, or who remember burning the roof of their mouth on the peach cobbler in a TV dinner.
And they’re the same stories that often make our kids roll their eyes; not always, but sometimes.
And it’s when I start to talk about these things to our kids or people of their age that I seem old, or at least older than I feel. It’s like I’m in “age limbo” right now; that point in life where my stories aren’t yet cool again, they’re just outdated. Things like reminiscing about having to untangle the phone cord so it would reach to my bedroom. Or the day McDonald’s opened for business in my hometown.
Someday, when I go from being just “old school” to a true “O.G.” (look it up if you don’t know what it means, but that also means you’re probably my age or older), all those things will be cool again, and kids and grandkids will flock to hear my stories. (They will, won’t they? Please tell me they will!)
It’s just that I’m not quite old enough yet to have earned that O.G. status. And that means, by my own definition, I’m still in the prime of my life, and you can’t convince me otherwise. (Also, if karma exists, I’m sure it will punish me for documenting the phrase, “I’m not quite old enough yet …”)
It’s like I’m Pluto, just minding my own business and continuing to make trips around the Sun, hoping to continue to live a long, long life whether I’m recognized as a planet or just a ball of rock and gas.
For now, I’ll just keep collecting and archiving memories from my earlier days (to prepare for the future), and I’ll also work to stay fresh, current, open-minded and friendly so that I can remain young, useful and “prime” for as long as possible.
By the way, when did fast-food joints replace the term “melted cheese” with “melty cheese”?
© 2024 David R. Haznaw