Facing Retirement: Time Has Come

Not for the faint of heart: Face Retirement

And someone my age should probably refrain. If you think the bags and dark eye circles and creases could not get worse, don’t kid yourself. But if you’re curious, Dorians and Doriannas, go ahead. Sit before your WebCams and brace yourselves.

The first time I had the notion that such a thing would happen to my face, I was 12. It was New Year’s Eve, 1959. This excerpt from Aging Through the Lens of Time (What We Hold In Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader) with a second to post tomorrow….

I took no part in time on New Year’s Eve, 1950. Events came and marked its passing around me–Christmases and birthdays–measured by the number of fingers I held up, of candles I blew out and made a wish. But time then held no promise, no threat of change in my life. If it moved at all in the order of things, it parted around me, left me untouched. It moved imperceptibly past and was no enemy.

I felt the irresistible pull of time’s gravity ten years later. For the first time, I imagined someday, being “old.” Up well past my bed time I could see that time was falling, counting down its hours, then the final seconds of 1959. The Big Ball in Times Square fell to earth to welcome a new decade, a number divisible by ten small fingers.

That night I understood with a vague terror that I was at risk for more and more of these decade mileposts ahead in life. I did the math: in the auspicious year of 2000, I would be fifty two. Think of that! In that first moment of comprehension, I looked far ahead into a murky river of time, dreading that I might, after all, be moved along against my will by its current. But maybe not. This unfathomable dimension might pass through me like cosmic rays as I held my place unmoved in perpetual youth of heart and mind. And hold my place, I intended to do.

Life beyond eternal childhood held no appeal. I watched with belly rushes as Peter Pan in arched flight soared above the clouds of perpetual youth. I vowed to be a Lost Boy. There at that threshold of the sixties, I tried to imagine aging. I puckered my twelve-year-old face in the mirror, forty years forward, into a wizened distortion of an incomprehensibly-old caricature of myself. I vowed that I would not go peacefully.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fight as you may, it will get you!! I can remember when Daddy died and friends came, I heard several say, “what a shame and she’s so young”. I remember so well thinking, young, she’s 31! But I’m so very thankful to God for being so merciful and good to me to let me live this long and have such good health. Certainly more than I deserve!

  2. I’m fighting it, but I hope I am doing it gracefully. There is nothing worse than a woman who refuses to see that she is too old for mini skirts and peasant blouses. And there is little worse than an old man who thinks he is (still) God’s gift to women and acts like it…..lol

  3. I wasn’t as reluctant to become an adult as you were, but I also felt like childhood could go on indefintiely, it was so good. I very much enjoyed your reflections on how time appears to us at different times in our lves.