I was watching television late at night, after my wife drifted off to sleep, when I first saw him. I don’t tend to stop channel surfing when a comedian appears.
He looked like a friend of mine, he had a devilish smile and he wasn’t shouting or barking obscenities at me. He was balding and overweight and was the definition of unglamorous. He was talking as if I was in the room with him and he was sharing observations with me. I’m going to paraphrase one of the first jokes I heard.
“Getting old sucks,” he began.
“You know, when you’re in your 20s and you come in and tell the doctor your shoulder is bothering you, you have, like a hundred options. The doctor can take a piece of your hip and put it in your shoulder, he can make you a new shoulder, and he can fix you right up so you’re good as new.”
The audience nodded appreciatively.
“But, then, you get older and you go to the same doctor with the same complaint and you wait. The doctor smiles at you and listens to your symptoms but, then, he doesn’t offer any heroic solutions. He gives you that understanding look.”
“So, what can we do about this?” you say.
“Well, you can take some Advil if you want,” he says with a shrug.
“But what about all those other options?” you ask. “What about moving around body parts, building a new shoulder and fixing me up so I’m better than I was?”
“Those are no longer possible,” he says, as he shakes his head slowly.
Getting old is difficult. I know doctors and lifestyle coaches and entire industries are dedicated to reversing the effects of aging. Lines on your face? Hey, no problem, there’s a cure for that. Putting on weight as you age? Sure, we can fix you right up, send you food, cook food for you, or convince you through hypnosis that you, in fact, don’t need food.
If a character Tom Hanks played in “Cast Away” could survive for several years on an island by himself with just a volleyball for his friend and a few fish and coconuts here and there, you can most certainly get through a day without coffee, doughnuts or any of the other bare necessities that call to you from the addicted parts of your bodies.
When our kids were small, we used to pack the back of the car with everything we might need. Pack ‘N Play? Check. Stroller? Check. Diaper bag? Got it.
As they got older, we didn’t have much to bring and just told them to get in the car and buckle themselves in.
Somewhere along the lines, though, as our kids needed less to go from point A to point B, we wanted more. Our conversations before we leave the house go something like this.
“I can’t find my vitamins,” my wife says. “Did I take one this morning?”
“I don’t know, but do you know where my reading glasses are?” I ask.
“No, but when you start looking for your distance glasses, they’re on your forehead,” she smiles, pointing at me.
“Oh, good, thanks. Have you seen my Invisalign braces?” I ask.
“I’m not sure if the ones in the kitchen are your new ones or your old ones, but there’s a set on the counter,” she offers.
As I scoop up my plastic braces, I see something familiar next to them.
“Hey, honey?” I shout. “Your vitamins are on the kitchen table.”
Getting old may be challenging but it can also be comical. Just ask comedian Louis C.K.