Unexpectedly by Jack Townsend

Unexpectedly I decided I was old. That’s not the most glorious thought you can have first thing in the morning. However, that was my first thought on my birthday. There have been a few birthdays that have got my attention throughout the years, but not many. I sailed through most of them without a second thought. This one caught my attention. I turned eighty-five.

All birthdays after a certain age are cause for reflection. We ask ourselves,

“Where did the time go?”. This past birthday I asked myself that question and went on to contemplate the passing of years and the changes in my body and habits.

I don’t walk as well as I used to. Recently, I have been in pain in my left hip and down my leg. From my self-diagnosis, which I have always had a habit of doing, I believe I have a pinched sciatic nerve. If you get me near running water, I have got to pee. My brain works slower than it used to. If you speak rapidly I can’t understand what you are saying. My hearing is good, but my brain can’t process it fast enough. So when you talk fast it sounds to me like Chinese. I may need to ask you to slow down, but that is only an option. I will first try to determine if I think it is important and if I decide it is not I will start thinking about what I am going to have for supper.

Another thing, it takes me two or three times longer to do everything. That is, if I can remember to do it in the first place. My kitchen countertop has turned into a two­tone yellow Post It note and off white color. I get excited when I see them on sale. That is just one of the ways. The other is the large calendar I buy every year at the end of December at Meijer for the coming year. It’s the ones that have the big blocks where the date is, so I can mark down my appointments, all the upcoming birthdays, and other notations of interest. All in small print, of course, which I have a hard time reading at times.

And then I got to thinking again of how much time it takes me to do anything and I reflected back to when I was about five or six years old. I pictured myself lying in bed on a summer morning. My eyes would pop open after a dreamless, uninterrupted sleep with everything working well and purring along like a well oiled, well-adjusted motor. My bare feet would hit the floor and I would pull on a pair of summer shorts, run downstairs and out the back door with the screen door slamming shut behind me and if Mom was not quick enough to catch me, I would be two doors down the street, standing in front of my little buddies’ house hollering at the top of my lungs for him to come out and play, How long did that take? I would estimate three or four minutes. Now it takes me an hour to sit down to breakfast.

Unexpectedly, I decided I was old. Did I panic? No! I decided that I was not only an octogenarian, which sounds like a collection of dinosaur bones, but that I was an octogenarian and a half. I had already been an octogenarian for five years so it was way to late to panic.

Anyway, I think I have got this thing of growing old figured out. I saw that there are four stages of being old. From eighty to ninety you are young-old, from ninety to one hundred you are middle-aged old, and over one hundred you are old. So I have unexpectedly decided that I am young-old.

Jack Townsend is a member of SourcePoint’s creative writing group. Creative writing typically meets on the last Monday of each month at 2 p.m.