Tag Archives: Aging

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It is hard to know when I first noticed that my parents were aging.

The closer you are to a subject, the more your perceptions are distorted and you don’t see as clearly.

For example, my mother and the mother of a childhood friend of mine both grew up in Germany.

When I would visit my friend, I was always struck by how thick his mother’s accent was so many decades after living in the states.

One day my friend remarked on how thick my mom’s German accent was, and I was like: What accent?

So too it has been in discovering that my parents have gotten older.

The revelation was most forcefully driven home after they had been traveling with a bus tour and Dad tripped in a parking lot and fell, fracturing his arm.

A trip to the emergency room and later his own doctor back at home left his arm in a convoluted sling that rendered the arm immobile and pretty much useless.

I learned that Mom had to feed Dad because his dominant arm was out of commission. He was also having difficulty sleeping because of the discomfort and pain.

When my wife and I visited a few weeks after Dad was on the mend, it was shocking to see Mom sticking a napkin under his collar while he ate with his non-dominant hand.

And a month after that, Dad fell off a chair while reaching for something on the floor while visiting us. I was in the kitchen when I heard a noise and the next thing I saw was Dad on his side on the floor.

It was quite the shock to see Dad — an authority figure who commanded respect and who I remember from childhood as being the strong guy I turned to for leadership — out of commission like that.

My reflections on all of this resurfaced after my brother-in-law’s father recently died at age 90. Ed’s dad was an energetic go-getter who unexpectedly took a bad turn after heart surgery.

And within weeks of his death, my former father-in-law, a contemporary of my Dad’s, also died years after learning he had Parkinson’s disease.

Dad has had a heart attack,  a defibrillator installed and significantly slowed down over the past six years. There have also been a couple of medical crises set off by high heat and lack of hydration.

All of that said, Dad, who will be 79 in the fall, is in good spirits and will soon have physical therapy. He is even driving again.

Mom looked a little worse for the wear immediately after all of the strain of his fall but things seem be more settled.  Though she complains about being old, there’s not much slowing her down.

They live in a retirement community that residents euphemistically call “God’s waiting room.” While there’s a bit of gallows humor about that, there is no escaping that, in the end, time claims everyone, including your parents.

You Know You Are Older Than 50 When …

An AARP columnist astutely and humorously listed 11 things you should not do when you are beyond 50.

Jell-O shots.

Trying to break a plank with your head.

Crowd surfing.

Truthfully, I am not so sure how wise any of those are at ANY age.

But it did get me thinking about getting older. So, with her column as inspiration, here are the ways I know I am north of 50:

I understand the meaning of the phrase “Film at 11…”

I recall: “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?”

I exercise twice as hard for half the results.

I realize how little of the world I’ve seen.

I recall well a conversation from more than 30 years ago with a veteran newsman who was probably younger than I am today.

He said to me: “Chris, newspapering is a young man’s game.” At the time, I thought, “Pshaw!” But now? Hmmmm….I think I understand what he meant.

I am more aware of mortality — mine and others.

I watch a movie and say about the actors and actresses: “Oh, he’s dead.” “Yeah, him, too.” “She’s dead…”

I am aware of how little I have saved for retirement.

Turning 70 suddenly does not seem so out of reach.

Playboy removed the photos of nude women and I didn’t notice.

I have to pee when I don’t want to, and when I want to, I can’t.

I find myself saying things like “Kids today…”

I remember when spell-check was a dictionary.

True piece of dialogue among myself, my wife and two friends:

Friends: Describing how one of their daughters watches cable television shows with strong mature content.

Me: Well you have just that one TV in your living room, right? So you could monitor what she watches. Where else is she going to watch these programs?

My wife: (Turning to me with a dose of exasperation): On her computer…?

Me: Oh, yeah. Did I tell you about the rotary phone I have?

The idea of having a doughnut for breakfast repulses me and I instead embrace a bowl of oatmeal.

I can’t read in bed because the book is too heavy.

I read nutritional labels for fiber content.

When I am filling in my date of birth on a computer form, it takes longer and longer to scroll to reach my year.

I look at old photos of my parents and realize I have already eclipsed the age they were in the pictures.

I make sure to turn out the lights in a room because I remember the energy crisis of the 1970s.

I jaywalk less.

I am more aware of my balance (or lack thereof).

A nap? Why yes! I think I will take one!

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An Open Letter of Apology to Carrie Fisher

Dear Ms. Fisher:

I feel I owe you an apology. And while I say this speaking strictly for myself, I suspect there is a wider swath of men who might feel the way I do.

You recently came under attack by social media trolls who criticized you for — gasp! — having the temerity to look older since the last time you appeared in a “Star Wars” movie.

The shaming you were subjected to came after your appearances as General Leia Organa in “The Force Awakens.”

Some of the comments, which I read on Twitter, were vitriolic. I was stunned at how base some people were.

But then again, I should have known better: That’s because I’m guilty of contributing to this kind of mentality.

There’s a generation of us men who grew up unenlightened about women. In our childhood and adolescence, we knew Hollywood actresses only to be young and pretty.

I’m thinking here of an age of “Charlie’s Angels” or “Wonder Woman,” for example.

I suppose Hollywood has always placed a premium on youth and good looks, with the scales unfairly tilted against actresses.

My wife and I have had this discussion numerous times, with her pointing out that beyond a certain age, the opportunities for an actress shrink as her perceived value (read good looks) fades.

For a long time I argued – in a Pollyannaish way – that was not the case. I realize, of course, that is very much the reality and that guys like me have contributed to that ethos.

It is a culture that the comedian Amy Schumer so perfectly skewed in a sketch on her show that parodied “Twelve Angry Men.” The all-male jury’s deliberations focused on whether Schumer was “hot enough” to have her own show.

While the sketch was brilliantly subversive and spot-on hilarious, it also exposed an uncomfortable truth:

Terms like “objectify” are not part of the cultural vocabulary of many men when it comes to women. Instead, we use descriptions like “hot,” “cute,” “babe” or worse.

I’ve been a fan of yours since “Star Wars” came out in 1977 and, yes, as an 18-year-old when “Return of the Jedi” was released, lusted after you when you appeared in that bikini outfit.

But that’s a long time ago and it’s belatedly clear to me that women in general and particularly in Hollywood are held to a different set of standards that are linked almost exclusively to their appearances.

Your response to the social media trolls struck a nerve with me:

“Please stop debating about whether or not [I] aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.”

Those comments were an epiphany.

I sensed a genuine hurt beneath the layer of sarcasm. Also, there’s something about the fact that I grew up with you, my admiration for your forthright public battle with mental illness and addictions and the head-on way you addressed the trolls that spoke to me.

On screen, you’ve played a princess and a general and in real life you are a mother, daughter, author and actress.

To me, though, you’re smart and brave.

Thank you for that.

Sincerely yours,

Christopher Mele

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Mission: Impossible — My Love Letter to Tom Cruise

If you are looking for a movie review of the fifth installment of the “Mission: Impossible” blockbuster movie series, “Rogue Nation,” this isn’t it.

No, instead this will be me delivering a sloppy wet kiss to Tom Cruise for what he demonstrated in MI5.

The dude just crushed it in this movie and yet, to borrow a phrase from my father, “He’s showing his age.”

And therein lies my admiration.

To watch Cruise at age 53 – 53! – carry out the stunts he did was jaw-dropping.

(Only a mild spoiler since it’s already revealed in the trailers and on the movie poster, but he hangs off the friggin’ side of an Airbus 400 as it takes off! And yeah, so what if he was harnessed in and had all kinds of other safety precautions in place? The guy still hangs off the friggin’ side of an airplane!)

I won’t give away some of the other breathtaking (literally) set pieces in MI5 that Cruise also performed. You will have to see – and appreciate – them for yourself.

But consider that Jon Voight, who starred in the first “Mission: Impossible” movie in 1996, was only five years older than Cruise is now.

And let’s be honest: Jon Voight even at Cruise’s current age did not exactly look athletic.

(I am two years younger than Cruise and get winded pulling on the refrigerator door handle.)

In the current movie, there is the obligatory shot of Cruise shirtless and he’s in stunning shape.

There’s an escape scene that demonstrates his incredible physical prowess. The guy runs, leaps, fights and performs all kinds of other daredevilry that absolutely earned my admiration.

All of that said, though, here’s the thing I think I appreciated the most about the movie: The movie doesn’t try to portray him as the aw-shucks heartthrob of Cruise movies past, such as “All the Right Moves” or “Top Gun” or even some of his more recent starring roles.

Nope, for the first time ever, I found myself going: Yep, he’s showing his age.

Close-ups of his face (to my eyes anyway) revealed some of the wrinkles and plain weariness that comes with being a guy in his 50s.

No Botox here.

What I also appreciated was how in some situations in the movie he either needed to be rescued or his best effort to get a job done (as in a perilous motorcycle chase) does not work out exactly as planned.

In other words, real life happens.

MI5

Cruise came across as vulnerable and susceptible to the kind of overreach that guys are known for: “Oh, I can do this” or “I can fix this” and suddenly you are Chevy Chase in a scene from a “National Lampoon” movie, falling off a ladder or recovering from some other act of first-degree knuckle-headedness.

If I had been watching this movie in my 30s, none of these insights would have occurred to me. But being older gave me a different perspective on some of these subtleties.

For what it’s worth, MI5 was a top-notch summer tent pole of a movie but, in my opinion, not as good as the previous one, “Ghost Protocol.”

But if for nothing else gentlemen (and ladies) go watch it to see how Tom Cruise is showing his age but doing it with such style!