Carl Sandburg got it wrong. It’s not the fog that comes on little cat feet; it’s old age. We’re so focused on barreling through our daily lives that we don’t really notice age creeping up on us. But every now and then something happens that reminds us the clock is ticking.
On a recent trip to the chain barber shop I’ve been going to for years, I was assigned a pretty, perky, twenty-something cosmetologist. I was happily chatting her up when — for the first time ever—she asked if I wanted my eyebrows and ears trimmed. My brain skipped like a 45rpm and visions of Andy Rooney loomed in my head. “I guess so,” I squeaked. I spent the rest of my time in the chair sullenly counting the few grains of pepper left in my salt-and-pepper hair as they wafted onto my lap.
I was beginning to feel a little less shocky as we walked to the cash register. That is until, without asking me if I qualified, she gave me — for the first time ever — the 65-and-over discount. This forced me to shakily explain to her, and everyone else in the shop, that, though I clearly look at least 65, I’m actually 57. For my trouble, she charged me another 3 dollars.
I was relieved to get home until I noticed that—for the first time ever—the barber had left one clump of hair much longer than all the others. Mystified, I asked my wife about it. She gleefully explained that it was for a Trumpian comb over and asked if I’d considered getting an orange dye job?
Sensitized to my senior status by this encounter, I began to notice other sure signs of aging:
- At a car dealership, instead of looking for as much styling, performance, and handling as I could afford, my only real consideration was the amount of lumbar support.
- Every time I stand, I emit a little, involuntary grunt of dissatisfaction.
- Every time I sit, I emit a little, involuntary grunt of satisfaction.
- I can comb my hair with a towel.
- When I look in the mirror, my father stares back.
Time is relentless, but is there a way to stave off its icy grip? Based on what I’ve seen in my own family, the best way to resist aging is to stay active. So, for the last several years, to keep creakiness and crankiness at bay, I’ve been running 3 times a week.
But running is a solo sport, so if you skip a workout, the only one you let down is yourself. And, because my bed never feels comfier or cooler than on those soupy Corpus Christi summer mornings, I used to wimp out a lot. But that changed when I joined a Beach to Bay team, because now I’m letting down my teammates if I spank the alarm clock and roll over.
And there’s one teammate in particular I can’t let down: Herman Vacca. He’s a perpetually sunny, 79-year-old triple bypass and cancer survivor who’s run nearly every B2B since the race began. He remembers the first one as a few hardy souls running down wide open streets without police protection. There were no finisher medals, T-shirts, or post-race activities. He doesn’t remember the first time there were post-race beers, but he does remember there was no limit.
At our pre-race party last year, I told Herman I hoped I’d still be running when I was his age. He gave me a big smile and said he hoped he’d still be running right alongside me.
This year, health issues will prevent Herman from running, but he’ll be walking the first leg as fast as he can. That puts him in the conversation for toughest runner in the race, so, if you see him out there, give him a high five.