FLINT - I don't want to struggle with turning 50, but I think I already am. My birthday in May this year has loomed large on my mental calendar since my birthday in May last year, and it gets loomier each day closer.
Yes, I realize I invented a word back there - loomier - but if there's one advantage to this getting older nonsense it's that I just don't care. If I want to make up a word then, dammit, I'm going to make up a word. Got a problem with that, sonny? I didn't think so. Now get off my lawn.
Anyway, the letter from AARP didn't help. It arrived the other day and at first I thought it was a joke or some kind of ridiculously early heads up, as in "Hey, in 20 or 30 years you might want to check out what we can do for you." Or maybe my neighbor's mail got mixed up in mine.
But this was addressed to me, which is impossible because AARP is for old people. People who move to Florida then gripe about the heat. People who eat dinner at 4 o'clock. People who watch "Matlock." People who still miss when the winners went shopping on "Wheel of Fortune." People who can remember voting for Eisenhower. People whose homes smell old person funny. People who play canasta. People who have fallen and can't get up. People who order jewelry off QVC. People who listen to Ray Conniff, Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Welk. People who still have an accent from the "the old country." People who put fruit in Jell-O. People who appreciate the return to mobility that their new Rascal gives them - without costing them a penny if they have insurance!
You know who's AARP material? Fred and Ethel Mertz from the old "I Love Lucy" show. Me, I listened to Styx in high school, for crying out loud. People who listened to Styx in high school cannot possibly be AARP material. I mean, c'mon, we don't even age. We go on forever as permanent something-year-olds. Yeah, sure, we may not be high schoolers anymore, but we're certainly not and never will be old, at least not until "someday," and someday is decades if not centuries away. Understand?
Yup, I thought, AARP sure screwed up in sending a letter to me, so I put the letter aside to show it to Marcia later so we could both have a laugh.
Then I forgot where I put it, which is something I do a lot these days, probably because I have so much on my mind. And when I finally ran across it a few days later and tried to read it to her I couldn't without going to find my reading glasses, which I also forgot where I put. Ten minutes later I came back in the room and said, "What was I going to show you again?"
"I love you, grandpa," she said, laughing then walking off to another room.
I'd have chased after her to give her a playful pinch for making fun of me but my back was hurting for no apparent reason. So instead I flopped heavily into my favorite chair, making my "sitting down" noise, which goes something like "Oooooof."
So, OK, I'm a little older. But AARP? Seriously, that is not cool.
I have to admit a little panic has set in. I've started making bucket lists like crazy: Learn to skydive. Learn to skydive while doing tantric yoga. Learn to skydive while doing tantric yoga and learning to play "Stairway to Heaven" on the electric guitar. Learn to skydive while doing tantric yoga, playing "Stairway to Heaven" on the electric guitar and figuring out what exactly happened to my 30s and 40s because someone CLEARLY robbed them from me.
And so on.
I always thought I'd handle this better. But the reality is I'm not.
Garrison Keillor, who has always seemed old to me, once wrote that when you turn 50 "you have to stop complaining about getting old, the strangeness of it, the fascination, the horror, etc, etc. That was okay in your 30s and 40s, but now that you're old, it's time to shut up on the subject. The term "senior moment", for example, or joking references to your prostate or Alzheimer's: Stifle it. You shouldn't complain about aging for the simple reason that no one gives a hoot. If you were to pay people to care, they might care a little bit for an hour or two, but you didn't and they don't. So learn to be cheerful about it. When people ask how you are, say: 'Absolutely great. Never better.'"
I'm not sure I'll be able to do that. Whining and complaining about the strangeness of it all is much more my generation's style.
So I warn you: Do not ask me how I am for the next few months. I'll be way too glad to tell ya. In excruciating detail.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.