Not young. Just not old.
The difficult part of being in this mid-place is keeping myself open and flexible enough to take things from any of the lessons that life still offers. For it must be very easy to have become sure and solid and immovable by this age. Certain and completely fixed. Done and dusted. Never-changing. Rigid, frigid – and finished.
It takes effort not to be.
I feel like I’m still learning, all of the time.
Seven years ago I stopped playing football every week and so, with no regimented exercise, I’ve grown unfit and obviously overweight. God knows what state the game of football must be in without me?
A single man’s fondness for Guinness (basically a meal in a glass) during those first couple of post-football / pre-wife years probably didn’t help. The recent lockdown hasn’t, either, but having a handy pandemic to blame moon-faced failures on isn’t always a get-out. Also, my beard has a tendency towards the unkempt so I sometimes exude the David Bowie in Baal vibe.
Frankly, I have let myself go a little bit over the last decade.
The physical aspects of my being are things I could work on, so that I can become Fitter and Stronger and Better, and in with a fair chance of ‘being around’ for as long as possible. My wife reminds me that my longevity is important to her and that it is something she and our child are counting on. So the aerobic system and general physical state are areas I should definitely make the effort to do something about. Once I’ve put down this biscuit I shall surely draft the master-plan?
And the age?
I didn’t really mind turning 51. But I am perhaps just that bit older than I wish to be. I wouldn’t want to go back to being in my twenties or even my thirties. 41 would be nice, though I’d settle for 44.
I know it cannot happen.
Just like Cher, though arguably with better tits, I find that I am unable to turn back time… No matter how many gunship cannons I straddle or sailors I favour with a feather boa, there is no getting away from the fact that I am floating in the now.
And the existential stuff?
My father was fifty-eight years old when he died, twenty years ago this summer. Three heart attacks (two minor and undetected until the post-mortem, the third huge and – obviously – fatal). He was seven years older than I am now, in the moment of writing this.
If I am still alive on Friday 27th August 2027, I will somehow happen to have lived for a total of more days than he. How curious that might be. Will it come with relief? Will it come with guilt – the surpassing of a hero?
It doesn’t seem that far away either, 27th August 2027. Just got to keep putting one foot in front of the other for a little longer…
My research tells me that date will also bring a penumbral lunar eclipse. On 27th August 2027 the Earth will block some of the Sun’s light from directly reaching the Moon’s surface, and it will cover part or the whole of the Moon with the outer edge of its shadow (also known as the penumbra). A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are imperfectly aligned. That in itself has got to really mean something, right?
I count myself as extraordinarily lucky to have an uncomplicated stepfather who has done his best to be an uncomplicated parent to me for half of my life. I don’t very often think about my Dad’s death. Don’t get me wrong – I mean the trauma around it and the reasons for it. I think of my actual Dad every day. Or, at the very least, each day I feel some sort of echo or influence or benign presence.
A fortnight ago my wife and I visited his grave so I could tell him he would have a new grandchild soon. For a moment or two she stood quietly with one hand on her belly and the other on his headstone. Though they never met, this was a kind and gentle and entirely spontaneous gesture which got me right down in the bones.
Memories of his voice and his smile flickered in. Random and insignificant things. The little things. It all seems such a long time ago now – and, of course, it was. It doesn’t seem to matter, even. He’s been and gone.
But my wife is right. It does matter. How will she feel, and how will my own child feel, when all that is left is the little things and I have been and gone? It is time to do something about this body before it is finished.