Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm Not Old


I was eating lunch with a friend the other day. She was talking about her sick friend, her husband's upcoming big birthday, her mid-life crisis of sorts.
"I'm not looking forward to this next phase of life," she said.
"Huh?"
"Getting older. What's to come."

Age, I've decided after years of watching people, is a matter mostly of luck and partly of mindset. Mostly of luck. I've seen people who are old by 40. I've seen people in their 70's, and sometimes even 80's, who are still full of life. I recently treated a man in his early 90's who still had stuff going on.

"I'm not getting old," I said. I feel fine, why would I spend my time thinking about impending disability.

My friend is a runner, she's tall, slim, beautiful, and has two sons in elementary school. She looked at me shocked.

"You're my age. You're in denial."
Perhaps I am. My children, especially the younger one, tell me I'm old at every turn. Actually, I'm a bit younger than most of their friends' parents. I tell them so, it bounces off and lands with a thud.

Back in the day, I think. I can remember, and I'll leave you with a list:

Going to the library to do research out of books.
Finding those books after looking them up in the big card catalogue which took up half the room.
Finding journal references in The Readers' Guide To Periodic Literature (or something like that) and reading the reels on microfilm.

Answering the phone, attached to the wall.
Not knowing who was calling until you actually answered.
Dialing. Really, dialing.
Staying home to wait for a call.
Using pay phones, routinely.
I was in med school the first time I saw a cell phone. It looked like a vacuum cleaner. Well, not really.

Television in black and white, though the neighbors had color.
Getting up to change the channel.
TV Kids who said "Golly Gee" and no one cursed.
Saying to my big brother: "I turned it on, you turn it off," when no one wanted to get up.
Saying to my big brother: "You turned it on, you turn it off," when no one wanted to get up.
Television shows that had to be watched when they aired, not on video tapes or TiVo.
Movies on big screens only, as double features.

Radio: shaped like an orange ball that played AM only. Taking it to the beach.
Records that came as 45's and 33's and got scratches.
Oddly enough, all the recording artists were the same then as now.

Riding in cars without buckling the seat belts. (I don't remember ever being in a car that actually didn't have seat belts).
Cars where you stuck the key into the lock to open the door.
Cars with roll down windows.

Typewriters. I remember typewriters. I even remember manual Smith Coronas. I remember carbon paper and erasable paper. (Oh my God, I AM old.)
Keypunch and all those keypunch cards. I remember COBAL.
Huge computers that filled cold rooms. Something called DEC-10.
Volkswriter, and then WordPerfect.

Elavil and haldol and there was no Prozac, no atypical anti-psychotics.
Patients stayed in psychiatric units for weeks to months, and even years.
I remember psychiatric units with Adirondack chairs on the lawns and patients went home on overnight passes.
Psychiatric residents who routinely had personal analyses (this may have been a New York thing).

I remember classrooms filled with wild little boys who didn't take stimulants.
I remember a time when I'd never met a child with autism. Learning about autism in college, a very rare condition.

I remember Tab and the world before Diet Coke. Cheerios were unflavored and the only bread was white bread. Scooter pies, Pop tarts and plastic Twinkies tasted good, but Cap'n Crunch ruled. Ronald McDonald toured and lines ran around the block.

So maybe I am old. Someone, please hand me my cane.