Early on at the University of Montana, my friends started calling me “Friar Frank,” a reference to the bald spot I had developed by the ripe old age of 19. In some ways, I’ve looked (and acted) 45 for almost four decades, which may be why I’ve been so obsessed with staying current and acting “youthful.”
Recently the inevitability of mortality came creeping into my mind; brought to a head by the loss in December of my brother-in-law, a youthful contemporary in age. In that context, the otherwise joyful news that I would soon become a grandfather for the first time further drove home my place on the age spectrum. My grandfathers were only in their early 50s when I was born, and I thought they were damned old at that age.
Octopus-like tentacles of depression started worming through my susceptible brain, clogging my thinking process. By my 66th birthday last month, my figurative octopus had clouded my thinking process with a curtain of black ink.
It’s not like I’ve started fearing death. Hey, here today, gone tomorrow.
My concern, I realized, is with the agonizing degradation of the way we experience life—that leakage of vitality that robs us of the ability
to move freely and gracefully;
to see and hear clearly;
to think unencumbered by increasing mental roadblocks;
to finger a fret board without painful protests from joints.
George Bernard Shaw nailed it when he quipped that youth is wasted on the young.
So, what are we to do with this multifaceted sea monster that slowly consumes our existence? In a moment of pleasant serendipity, I seized upon a fanciful-but-comforting solution.
I’m going to make a deal with the devil. In exchange for stopping the aging process—ideally at 45—I will continue to enjoy all the faculties of that relatively youthful age in exchange for giving up the ghost without a whimper on my 85th birthday.
Now, if only I could get my eyes, body, and mind to work well enough to find that friggin’ devil.