The Universal Notebook: Time marches on

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Whether it’s turning 65, losing both parents within the past eight months or just the long, miserable winter, I must admit I have been feeling my age lately.

I used to look in the mirror and see a 20-year-old guy when I was 40 and a 40-year-old guy when I was 60. But now I see the gray hair and beard, the bags under my eyes, the crows’ feet and the wrinkles.

It’s a good thing I don’t look in the mirror all that often.

Oddly enough, however, I’m feeling pretty good about getting old. Oh, I’ve suddenly got a cranky left knee and the right shoulder I dislocated playing basketball 20 years ago has stiffened so I can no longer throw a snowball or a baseball with any velocity, but so far the physical infirmities are bearable.

What pleases me though is how at peace I seem to be with aging. I’m sure it’s just a passing phase, but I no longer feel as much of the anxiety and urgency I used to feel.

As I was approaching 65, I told Carolyn I was thinking about retiring. She promptly informed me that I couldn’t retire until I got a job. True enough. I have been self-employed for 20 years now and worked at home for Maine Times for 15 years before that, so a lot of people probably think I retired years ago.

I started writing for publication in 1965, while still in high school. I went to work for Maine Times in 1980 and started freelancing for Down East in 1983, the year new editor-in-chief Kathleen Fleury was born. Kathleen and my daughter Nora graduated from Yarmouth High together in 2001. Talk about feeling old. But I love the idea that the torch has been passed to a new generation and I am particularly pleased that it has been passed to a young woman and a mother. That’s got to be a good thing. I’d hate to outlive print journalism.

But you know what’s not a good thing? Having your doctor and dentist retire on you at the same time. I’m too old to break in a new dentist, so I guess I may have to just let my teeth fall out. And it really makes me feel old to have my urologist retire. Sam was a year behind me at Westbrook High School. Where does the time go?

It doesn‘t seem all that long ago that I felt as though I knew everyone in Portland, at least all the artists, writers, chefs, architects and musicians. Now I go into town for an art show, a meal, a movie or a concert and find myself wondering, “Who are all these young people?”

Well, actually, I know exactly who they are; they’re my daughter Tess and her peers, just out of college, working, partying, bar-hopping and reinventing the old city. It’s their world now, and that’s the way it should be. I poop out around 9 o’clock now anyway.

These days I’m as apt to go out to eat at noon as night. I have lunch every few weeks with my old high school buddies Earl and Roland. After we eat, we drive around aimlessly like we did when we were teenagers, just talking and laughing. We used to joke that we didn’t want our misadventures to end with the headline “Three Westbrook youths killed in freak accident.” After the last Out to Lunch Bunch meal, we took a wrong turn and almost wound up on the ice at Sebago Lake.

“Old men become disoriented; drive into lake. Details at 11.”

The best thing about getting older, though, is having grandchildren. We have four now and a fifth on the way. They make me laugh, and it’s not just the things they say and do, it’s the fact that they exist. Every time I look at a picture of one of them, I have to chuckle. What a bunch of bright little bunnies.

Right now the little ones are in that magical age of timeless wonder, but it will be their world soon enough.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.