Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thoughts on Aging

Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really. ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
When Homer was a puppy, he couldn't wait to get somewhere. Anywhere. Straining against his leash, he always had to be first, to be in the lead, to be ahead of everyone else on a walk. He had no time for grass and shrubs and smells, or anything that might delay him, might allow another to take point; his only interest was in that next place, the next street, the next yard, and the one beyond that, and the one beyond that. As he got larger and stronger, he had to move up to a halter instead of a collar, and he had such strength in his little body that, eventually, the wife couldn't walk him. He would pull her along, pull her over. (Plus, he has an aggressive temperament with other dogs, and when they once encountered a stray on a walk, she came close to being injured in trying to get him out of a fight. Since then, she doesn't walk him alone.)

Now, he's matured to the point where the walk has become all about the grass, the bushes, the smells of the neighbourhood. No longer straining on his leash, he walks steadily on, stopping to pee, to sniff, to poop, to taste the grass, to enjoy something other than the walk itself. Other dogs merit inspection, but not the sort of suspicion and knee-jerk hostility of his youth. After nine years, Homer's becoming an Old Dog.

Not unlike me, in many ways. When I was young, I couldn't wait to get 'round the next corner either. Anything new was a temptation, any novelty life offered was a pleasure. The latest toy, the latest fashion, the latest idea -- that was the pleasure of life. There were unexplored paths, and I wanted to zip down all of them, get on to the next city, the next craze, the next new best place.

Now, not so much. I've lost interest in the novelty of new things. I can't be bothered to learn how to use new gadgets. A DVD recorder? There it sits, a pointless lump of metal that hums irritatingly and flashes the wrong time, and invites people to give me movies that I will never unwrap. The latest cell phone? All bells and whistles, pointless and overpriced. Beyond the communications aspect -- and that only in a limited degree -- they are glitz without substance. I would prefer not to have a camera on it -- I've seen enough pictures of the inside of my pocket.

My new phone has a button on it that activates voice commands. The button's on the outside, where it can easily be pressed accidentally. I find voice-command technology to be an impediment to the enjoyment of life.

I'm tempted by high-definition television, I admit, now that Fox Soccer Channel is available in HD, but I figure that if I wait long enough, it can be had for a price that might make it seem worthwhile. Until then, I can see the ball well enough on standard TV.

Sometimes I miss those old days, when Homer didn't have to be dragged along on a walk, when I didn't have to continually stand and wait while he chewed on some piece of grass, or inspected some low shrub with an attentiveness worth of a congressional inquiry. Sometimes I get tired of waiting on him to smell his roses.

Until I think about how hard it was to handle him when he was in a hurry.

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