I kinda lost my way for a few months too many.
This past winter was brutal by contemporary standards. I remember far more vicious winters in my youth, but the past few decades have been more benign. Not so this year. We had a rough go of it.
It felt as if winter would never end. Day after day, it was either snowing or bitter cold. I didn’t stray far from home all that much. Heck, the aging battery in my car failed me so often, I found myself stranded more often than not.
It wasn’t as if I minded the bitter cold. I kinda find it bracing when my nostrils glue together during frigid times. (Grooved on it, even, while riding on chair lifts over frozen slopes at midnight in my 20’s). No, what did me in was the duration of the entire affair.
In years past, I would begin my cycling season in March. I’d ramp up the miles in April and hit full stride in May. Not this year. The weather was so inhospitable that I began riding only in late April. My rides in May were few and far between.
I suffered and struggled.
What I hadn’t realized was how much physical damage I suffered from a long winter’s inactivity. I’m no brown bear that can hibernate all winter long to wake to spring and spring to action. My winter’s hibernation led to pronounced decrepitude.
My early forays on my bicycle(s) catapulted me into a near-panic state. My body was failing me. I had no strength, no endurance or resilience.
I found myself feeling truly old.
I found myself struggling in ways I’ve never struggled before.
I thought I understood the meaning of “aging” in my 50’s. I was only half right. There’s more to aging than meets a 50-year old eye. At age 63, my cataritic eyes have witnessed far more.
For the first time in my life, I felt truly old and vulnerable. I lost confidence in my physical abilities. And my mind, alas, was engulfed by a truly dark “brain cloud.”
My birthday came and went. Family and friends called or sent their best wishes. I did not pick up the phone nor acknowledge their kind thoughts. Shame on me for that. Acts of kindness and generosity deserve/warrant appreciation. Damn that brain cloud!
I was in a miserable state for a few months too many.
I began grappling with finality. I remembered how I argued with my Father to consider early retirement. When he was 62, I saw how physically depleted he had become. I feared he would not live much longer unless he retired. I promised (a promise kept) that I would finance his “golden years.” As I had hoped, he retired at 62, but perished by age 66.
At age 63, today, I realize (with a shudder) I’m every bit as physically depleted as my Father was at my age.
I struggle with that.
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Lest you think this is nothing more than a melancholy post, there’s more to this story.
It is early August. Today, I cycled for over four hours and traversed more than fifty miles. I reveled in the strength that had returned to my legs. I was grateful for this day.
What I witnessed was this:
The sun hangs lower on the horizon. My days are growing shorter. Still, the shadows beguile. The air shimmers. I feel the change in the air, the change of the seasons and I find it all so ineffably beautiful and meaningful.
The wind blew from the north and felt so fresh, so azure pure, that I gave thanks.
I felt a gratitude that only an aging being can feel.
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