by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, August 25, 2020
At 68, I can still grab a 52-pound speaker and hauled it all the way from the den to the back bedroom. I was impressed with myself. I even did it again with the left channel speaker. No big deal. Then I started noticing how my old body was beginning to whine. Was I wimping out? Hell, maybe I should have gotten the dolly. And I had the two rear channel Infinity Alpha-50 speakers to go. I plopped down in my old worn La-Z-Boy to rethink my plans.
Was I too old for my stereo system?
I was setting up my Denon system in the bedroom because yesterday I got totally frustrated with reconfiguring once again for my TV surround sound system. I was trying to get 4 HDMI devices inputted into to the AV receiver to automatically switch via the ARC HDMI to the TV and switch with just the TV’s remote. I had three HDMI inputs working for a year, but for some reason adding a fourth HDMI input annoyed the receiver. The video was switching fine, but the sound worked erratically. Modern electronics can be a pain in the posterior, and I knew it was time to get out the manual and study the labyrinth of settings carefully.
However, I’ve reached an age where I just don’t want to fuck with stuff anymore. (I know, I should have said tinker, but I’m getting crotchety too.) It’s like Dirty Harry said, “A dude must know just how much shit he can handle.”
As I approach 70 I feel like I’m riding a horse that’s too old to carry me. Sure I can I grab a big bulky 23.5kg speaker and lug it briskly across the den, up some stairs, through the kitchen, down the hall, to the back bedroom, while almost believing the lies I tell myself I’m still young enough to do it.
An emotional insight from deep inside me yelled, “Act your age — get a smaller stereo system you putz.” So I called my neighbor Paul who was looking for a stereo for his son and gave it to him. They came over and hauled it away in two car trips. (Hey, his son was young and strong, he can handle it.) But that’s 300 pounds of gear I don’t have to ever worry about again. Yet, two days ago I would have been horrified at giving my stereo system away — I love having a big sound system. I’m shocked and impressed I made such a quick decision. Usually, I’m insanely Hamlet for weeks.
Reality kicked hours later. This evening I couldn’t carry a 5-pound speaker to the bedroom. You should see me walking hunched over. I feel ninety-eight. I’m contemplating going to bed early with painkillers and heating pad. I wonder if I’ll ever stand up straight again?
People often talk about downsizing in their retirement years, but I’m learning that means more than buying a smaller house. Today I realized my tiny Yamaha WXA-50 streaming amplifier and bookshelf speakers I use in my computer room is an age-appropriate size and weight for a 68-year guy who is a worn out pug dog. The big 5.1 sound system I gave away is going to be replaced by a single soundbar for my den TV. I don’t even want to mess with rear speakers or a subwoofer. I’ve been studying soundbars and the idea of hooking one up with a single HDMI cable thrills me almost as much as when I was a teen studying Playboy. As an extra bonus, the den will have 5 less speakers cluttering up the floor. No more goddamn speaker wire. And my TV stand will have a nice empty shelf.
Not only do I want smaller things, I want simpler things. Years ago I replaced my huge tower computer with a tiny Intel NUC. I’ve been thinking about going back to a big tower computer again, but my back just screamed, “Don’t do it you crazy old dog. Sit. Act your age!”
Marie Kondo tells us we should ask if our possessions spark joy. My back pain is now advising I ask my stuff if they’re too complicated or too heavy for my declining mind and body.
5 thoughts on “Dang! I Wore Myself Out”
“No” has become the most powerful word in my vocabulary these days. From daughters to friends (all two or three of them) and in-laws, they still keep asking me to help ’em with this, to use my truck to haul that for ’em. “No.”
If I am feeling tired, emotionally-speaking, especially irascible, I go into one my lengthy tirades that always ends the same way: “I’m old. I’m tired. I’m tired of and I am tired from.”
If it is just feeling more physically tired, I simply quote the first couple of lines from Queen’s “We Are the Champions”: “I’ve paid my dues time after time, I’ve done my sentence but commited no crime, and bad mistakes I’ve made a few, I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face but I’ve come through.”
Flip that coin over, however, and what I am not seeing are many offers of help. In this case, it is the whole world–limited in context, of course, to just my little neighborhood. It is a now normal conversation I have with a couple of the other “old guys” when we happen to be out mowing, weed-eating, etc. And the conversation has become yes, dull, boring (but always in good fun) and repetitious as hell: “Where are all those young lads, you know, like ‘back when’ (and always stomp on those words ‘back when’) we were kids who would offer to help that old guy across the street, you know, the guy we’d mow his grass for him not necessarily because we liked the old goat but because our parents told us, ‘He’s getting old. Help him a little bit.'”
Ah, but the best “sign” that I am truly, truly old?
Lisa and I have been living in this house for thirty years. And I/we have done, ourselves, what “used to be” considered the normal things to do, you know, work our butts off to “fix it up”. And for the record, and in terms of money, through those years we have paid others almost to the penney what we paid for the house for those “home improvements”.
So these days as I walk through the house and say, “Damn, I need to….” (just fill in the blanks) I stop and say, “Nope, that’s the job of whoever lives here after I’m dead and gone.”
James, stay safe and be well and yep, enjoy it, this sense of “don’t care, not my problem, I’m too old….” (there’s gotta be a word for all this) because yep, you earned it and you deserve it.
My wife is all the time dreaming up remodeling ideas. I, on the other hand, feel the house and I should fall apart together.
I’m 77, James. I had a 225 pound barbell in my den when I was in my twenties. I would bench press it, and also pick it up to my chest, push it (not jump it) over my head and onto my shoulders, and perform 15 squat reps, and then push it back to my front and put it down.
Now I have two artificial shoulders, two torn off rotator cuffs, two artificial hips, two bad knees, and end-stage degenerate disc disease. My surgeon tells me never to pick up anything heavier than 70 pounds. My problem did not come from lifting, but genes.
I woke up one morning last month and without even thinking about it the day before phoned a NYC Jaguar dealership and asked if they by any chance had one of the 550 horsepower V8 blown two-seater convertibles. The salesman said he thought there might only be two of them left on the east coast, because the factory had shut down for Covid, but he had one of them.
I held my breath and asked its color. I didn’t want screaming yellow or flaming red suggesting a third childhood. “Dark metallic gray.” “I’ll take it!”
Every day when it’s not raining, at 3:30 I put the top down and drive over winding country roads to a nice destination bar, the kind you would find old men drinking at, with pretty barmaids. I park the car and order a gin martini. Then I drive home with a bit of a glow. Occasionally I push the solenoid control button to let the exhaust bypass the mufflers and gun it, and I feel as powerful as I did as a kid pushing a big barbell.
Hegel’s passage comes to mind, as I sometimes drive through Minerva in the Adirondack Park. Translated: “When philosophy paints its gray on gray, and has a life grown old. And with gray on gray it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva first takes flight with twilight closing in.”
Covert, you lived, and live in a much different world than me.
I have the same issues with moving boxes of books. When I was younger, it was no problem. Now, as I work to downsize my book collection, lugging heavy boxes of books becomes less appealing every day I grow older. The physical demands of aging need to be considered in all of our actions.