So I received this nondescript little package in the mail the other day — looked sort of like yet another credit card offer.
But no -- it was an invitation to join AARP, complete with membership card, explanation of benefits, and even an offer for a groovy free tote bag.
Wait a minute. AARP? That group formerly known as the American Association of Retired People? The silver tip club? What am I, 50 or something?
I’d like to think that I’m still young enough to the tote bag to carry guitar cords, pedals, and strings –maybe even surfboard wax and suntan oil – rather than statins, suppositories, reading cheaters, and orthotic inserts.
What fresh hell is this?
I’m only, uh, well, I’m just, ah, well OK, I’m about to creep up on the big 5-0 and it ain’t of the “book ‘em, Dano” variety.
Fifty? How did that happen? I mean, don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for every day and every trip around the sun.
But how is it that I’m running half the distance in twice the time? Why does staying up until 10 p.m. reading a good book yield even stronger headache, blurred vision, bloodshot eyes, and tiger’s attitude the next morning than staying out all night carousing used to cause back a couple of days ago? How is it that the hair keeps moving from my head and relocating to other less desirable neighborhoods? How, to crib a sentiment from the great Bill Cosby, did this body that was once a temple suddenly become one of those cinder block, storefront, former liquor store churches?
I thought I was dealing with this whole aging thing pretty well. A look in the mirror doesn’t reveal too many gray hairs in either chin whiskers or what remains of coiffure. I still have most of my teeth. I use reading cheaters constantly but haven’t had to move to bifocals. And I seem to be maintaining a decent weight, despite the fact that I’ve inexplicably metamorphosed from a key-dropping hunk-o-burnin’ eye candy some –and by some I mean “me” – used to call “Flex Heartthrob” to a middle aged dude some – and by some I mean “everybody now living on the planet”— now calls “Old Crack in the Back.”
Then to add insult to injury, this innocuous, unmarked envelope arrives. It’s not even one of those “plain brown packages” from days of yore, like they advertised in the back of “those” magazines your best friend found in the back of his dad’s closet.
Did this come to me because I once laughed at comb-overs, toupes, and plastic surgeries?
On the other hand, I don’t know why I should be so animated about this. After all, people retire at different ages and they say 50 is the new 30. I disagree with that – 50 is the new 50 to me – but it’s a nice thought and on good days it casts a helpful, rose-colored hue over the visions of heart disease, dementia, and adult diapers that occasionally strike up a rather noisy parade of the macabre in my far distance vision.
So I don’t think this idea that I’m actually old enough to be considered for membership in the club is as upsetting as the very real possibility – Dave Barry’s slap across the face with a cold wet fish, as it were – that I will never actually be able to become a retired person. That’s the proverbial pachyderm in the parlor – I’m looking at my portfolio, which largely consists of a large solo cup full of silver and copper mined from couch cushions and auto ashtrays – and I’m either going to have to develop an affinity for cardboard walls and cat food or I’m going to have to somehow keep my place at the wheel until I drop in my tracks, too spent to care about where the gold in my golden years went.
Of course, being possessed of a major sense of morbid curiosity, I read the information and the membership does come with some pretty good things like free donuts, discounts for virtually everything under the sun, and even access to cheap(er) insurance.
That means I may be able to augment my taste for Little Friskies with occasional treats from elsewhere, even as I’m cruising the grocery stores for free samples cooked and distributed by other people my age wearing plastic gloves and hair nets.
I’m not that concerned about my likely abode during the golden years, either. It may be the classic pasteboard Pied a Terre under the nearest Interstate bridge, but at least I get to pick the bridge. Also, most retirement communities I’ve visited are run by HOAs with policies that seem to originate from Krystallnacht. In fact, I’m so anti-HOA that I don’t even want to be buried in a perpetual care cemetery just because I don’t feel like arguing, via Ouija board or through my survivors, about, say, a great big granite telephone with the words “Jesus Called” decorating my 6x6 front yard.
I can see the letter from the Marble Orchard Association now: “Per rule 6:32-26 of the section pertaining to dirt naps within the confines of the PPD, no telecommunications devices may be kept within plain site of the footpath scape,” or some such.
That would certainly get me spinning until the ground cracked open.
So after a few moments of healthy fulmination, I can safely say, ok; bring it on, AARP. I’m getting ready to hit my new fifty, and aside from the “welcome to middle age” colonoscopy and maybe a couple of pills added to the daily diet, I’m thinking it won’t be so bad.
Besides, I can’t afford a marble telephone that says “Jesus Called”, anyway.
And did I mention that groovy tote bag?