Who is that old man in the mirror?

18 Aug

Self portrait

“…Age is a peculiar kind of thief. It slips up on you and steps inside your skin and is so quiet and methodical in its work that you never realize it has stolen your youth until you look into the mirror one morning and see a man you don’t recognize.”
— Rev. Amidee Broussard in “Creole Belle,” by James Lee Burke

I’m sure we’ve all had that moment when we’ve looked at a friend and thought, I hardly know that person. Have you had that moment when you’ve looked at yourself and had that same type of realization?

My moment came a couple months ago. I’d come in from a run on a Saturday morning. I had just showered and was getting ready for the day. I paused to look in the mirror and did a double-take. There was a sag in my neck. There were wrinkles. I looked at my hands — I mean really looked. They were wrinkled and checked.

Holy crap. When did this happen?

Just the other day, when I was 20 or 25, I remember thinking that my parents were middle-aged, which by my youth-skewed vision, was well on the way to old. I, on the other hand, was a fully mature adult, but I was just reaching the prime of my life.

Well, if I was 20, my parents were 50. Now I can see the light shining just ahead from my own 50th birthday candles. So 50 can’t be old, right?

Do you ever really think you are old? There are days when we feel old, but do we really think we are old? As long as we have the memories of our youth, of the days when we could run without aches and stay out late, drink all night, listen to bar bands and do it all over again the next day, we know we are not old. As long as we can draw on those memories, see them in our mind’s eye, we will remain young. At least in some way.

When I was just getting started in journalism, I heard this statistic that the average life span for an editor was something like 76. That would make middle age 38. Now more than a dozen years past that demarcation of middle age, I know that calculation is wrong. I am certain that journalists now live to be 100.

One Response to “Who is that old man in the mirror?”

  1. Barb Smidt at 2:21 am #

    Growing old is better than the alternative. Sure glad I get to grow old with you. 🙂


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