At what point in time do — or did — I become old?
I’m only in my mid-50s, but most times I feel like I’m in my mid-40s. Heck, there are times where I feel like I’m still in my 30s.
However, the last time I felt like I was in my 20s, I got talked into a friendly game of baseball with my nieces and nephews. I hobbled off the field with a sprained ankle, a quick reminder I’m in my mid-50s.
I truly enjoy the age I’m at. Life for me is finally starting to make sense. Gone are the days of confusion and out the window long ago went the days of teenage awkwardness. When I used to hear life starts at middle age, I used to think I would never make it there. But, the direction I’m canoeing is going to be the best decade of my life. I’m going to make sure of that.
I’ve written stories of my 10 years of medical battles. It’s an intestinal illness which defies description when it comes to pain. But throughout it all, I kept envisioning myself being healthy again and enjoying what I used to love doing — dancing.
It took a long time, but there’s no dance floor today I won’t jump onto.
People, even doctors and specialists, ask how I did it. My response is to never give up and always remember there is someone in worse shape. There are people out there who would appreciate just a day surrounded by family and forgetting what lies ahead. During my many stays in hospital, there were people who inspired me to get up and at least walk around. Some of these people weren’t expected to live for much longer, and here they were encouraging me.
There was one man who was recovering from third-degree burns. He had no nose, lips or ears — they were all burned off in a horrible accident. Yet, this man would laugh loudly with his children.
He enjoyed every second of his visits. When we were both well enough to go outside in our wheelchairs, we would sit and talk. One day he told me I would get better and he would continue life with all his injuries.
“But I’m not going to let this take me down,” he said. “From now on, every chance I get with my family is a blessing,” he said.
In the First Nation tradition, I am now considered a “junior elder.” Age doesn’t really matter at this point. It doesn’t take the elderly to make an elder.
It’s a matter of acceptance by the senior elders and the community. Being a junior elder doesn’t entitle me to anything but a suggestion of what direction our community should be taking.
It’s a big responsibility and an honour. My big concern is to not acting old or older. I don’t want to be that guy driving down the road with his signal light still going. And I don’t want to be that guy walking down the street with his jaw ajar.
Nor will I ever be the guy to holler “turn down that rock and roll music.”
About the only thing I’ve noticed is I’m starting to enjoy my naps. But, as I have been told by my elders, warriors need to rest. Exactly what I’m at war with, other than myself, is an open question.
That old adage of “age is only a state of mind” is a load of BS. It’s all in the state of a healthy body. Listen to your body and you, too, will be dancing like there is no tomorrow.