Tuesday, October 13, 2009


When my Dad hit sixty I noticed that he seemed to “thicken up”. He was always a big man in his maturity around six feet tall and around 250, probably from drinking too many Dad’s Root Beers (great product!). I initially thought this odd as his head seemed to grow larger and broader, his ears and nose got bigger, hair grew voraciously from every visible orifice and he had to fight the good fight with his waistline with even more fervor. All this appeared contradictory as he was a great athlete in his youth and in college played on the Babson soccer team. Seems that so many good athletes have to fight being overweight – always used to stoking the fires to find the energy to perform. We seemingly don’t know when to stop and reeducate/recalibrate ourselves. Thank God for Weight Watchers.

I noticed some of those same changes in the photographs I have of his Father and of my Mother’s Father. Dad spent a lot of time in the sun and by the pool so his skin while well tanned was a bit more wrinkled but still in pretty good shape. I really didn’t notice much of a change in his hair (salt and pepper) though he always wore it short…

I saw some photographs of myself recently and heretofore thinking I was closer to the above and now long dead famous actor, had my gerontological epiphany and realized that I am going down that same path. It prompted me to reflect on who I really am as opposed to who I think I am – at least physically.

You have to address that mind’s eye scenario where your consciousness perceives you at one state or another and not necessarily the space you really occupy. Now, I’m not dealing with some societal/organizational labels or perceptions, rather where you are from your own perspective. One invariably settles in and occupies a niche that he finds most comfortable. That season for self scenario finds me probably in my late forties, early fifties. The image that I have apparently subconsciously chosen for myself is just flat wrong... I am not going to climb Mount Rainier again, strap on my hockey pads, paddle my canoe or kayak down section IV of the Chattooga River or score another touchdown. Acceptance of my real persona and state doesn’t mean defeat or decline, rather time to occupy the present and look to the future. Dale Wimbrow’s well known 1934 poem, The Guy in the Glass should be required reading for all males over the age of sixty.

Brother John who turns 65 this November has been calling lately with questions about Social Security and Medicare – issues that I had addressed the year before. Gees, whoda thunk it?

The lessons that my wonderful significant other has been trying to pound into me (I’ve been kicking and screaming all the while) have finally sunk in. She won’t let me color my stache or otherwise alter my appearance to look younger, except to lose weight and get in shape. She has not unexpectedly proved to be far wiser than me and I thank God for her love.

The paradox of achieving a substantial maturity (old age) is that while we may have less time to live, we are freed from most of the earthly constraints that bound us in our earlier mediocrity. Though many of us continue working because of failed trusts or 401(k)s, we can bring the wisdom of our experiences to the work place, our personal lives and our communities. This can be the most rewarding and productive phase of our lives.
I’m counting on that…

I’m not a philosopher though I do admire the works of many to include the 2nd century BCE Hindu philosopher Patanjali (Yoga Sutras) who stated,

"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be." I perceive myself to be on the verge of that “new, great and wonderful world.”

Moving ahead requires some inner reflection, personal assessment and estimation how you can make a difference in the lives of your Friends and Family and your community ultimately giving your life greater meaning. I am not into the philosophy of the “growing old gracefully” crap. The bottom line is that you have to get out there and “Do it!”

No J Alfred Prufrock, I’m going to work at this issue and as one blogger put it recently, “Stand proud, throw back my shoulders, hold my head high, suck in both my stomachs and gracefully glide into growing old.” Well, maybe not glide. Attack or assault are probably far better verbs per the Buxton Family mantra, Do It With Thy Might.

Maybe my best Friend will let me grow some Everett Dirksen or Andy Rooney eyebrows to accentuate my maturity and eccentricities. I suspect that I might like English poet and journalist Jenny Joseph be encouraged by her famous 1961 poem Warning, to engage the male equivalent of “wearing purple with a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me... go out in my slippers in the rain… and wear terrible shirts and grow more fat.” Though I find myself doing most of that now perhaps I can symbolically break the shackles that bind me and continue to be a (more) productive member of society. I do not intend to, “go gentle into that good night” rather, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, no “tattered coat on a stick.”


Ned Buxton

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