When someone calls you “Long in the tooth,” they’re not referring to your dental condition. It’s usually an insult, a disparaging remark meant to make you feel old and useless. At the age of 53, I’m being kind when I refer to myself as “a mite long in the tooth”. This figure of speech actually originated in the animal kingdom. Unlike humans, the teeth of many animals, such as horses, grow longer each year. In addition, horses’ gum-lines recede as well, making their teeth appear even longer.
Even though my gums are still intact, I started feeling my age about ten years back. Gravity is indeed an unstoppable force, and this was proven when my body tissue migrated from my chest and shoulders to my midsection. I don’t like losing muscle mass. It has a relentless foreboding to it. But muscle isn’t the only thing I’m losing. Oh, how I yearn for the days when my barber would say those precious words. “Your hair’s getting too thick again, and I’m going to have to thin it out.” Having one’s hair thinned is a wonderful nuisance.
Of course, I’m being unfair to myself, because my hair is still there, it’s just moving around. I now have a venerable jungle of hair in my ears and nose and on my back. I’m starting to feel like “The Fly” more and more these days.
There are other things I’m losing too, but I don’t recall what they are just now. (Yes, that’s a joke.) I find it extremely frustrating every time I walk from the second floor down into the kitchen. Sometimes I’ll stop, look around, and wonder, “Why did I come down here?” Then I have to go back upstairs, sit down at my desk and just think about it for a while until it comes back to me.
Getting old really does suck! It’s a cruel, resilient process of gain and loss. So much so that sometimes I feel like a human version of the New York stock exchange.
I’m losing hair on my head and gaining it in my ears.
I’m losing muscle and gaining fat (everywhere).
And to top it all off, I’m gaining experience and losing my mind.
But it’s not all bad. There are parts of me that keep getting bigger. (No, not that part.) Take my prostate for example. Just five years ago I can recall standing at the urinal next to an old man who peed like the energizer bunny. He just kept on going and going and going… I wanted to reach over and slap him and say, “Just go for Pete’s sake and get it over with! People are waiting in line.”
In retrospect, time, it seems, is not without a sense of justice. If prostates were geographical, mine would be nicknamed Texas. Because, you know, everything’s bigger in Texas.
So there are a lot of things happening to me these days that I really don’t like. You young guys will be saying at this point, “Shut up old man! Get on the treadmill! Stop eating so much!” And, to a point, you’re right. (Insensitive and ignorant, but right.) I do need to exercise more and eat less. But I find myself amazed at my lack of ambition and energy. It seems the older I get, the less I want to move. More and more I’m becoming Newton’s “object at rest”. (Curse you Sir Isaac Newton.) Truth is, I feel like a pocket watch that needs rewinding. Problem is my get up and go has got up and left. Young pups, in the prime of their lives, just don’t understand that.
Despite all these changes taking place in my body, one thing remains constant. Inside my head, I still feel like the 18-year-old boy who took on Marine Corps boot camp and won. I just don’t view myself as 53 years old. The Bible says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I can relate to that. I want to jump down and pop out those one-handed push-ups, but the price would be more than I could bear. Yesterday I was out cutting and hauling wood with my 14-year-old son. He kept saying, “Dad, are you alright?” He was being nice, but I just wanted to ground him to his room.
So I’ve learned that Clint Eastwood was sage when he said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Nonetheless, my 18-year-old spirit continues to write checks my 53-year-old body just can’t cash.
Did I mention that getting old really sucks? I don’t recall.
Because of my worsening “condition”, I’ve had to make some changes in the way I go about my day-to-day life. The way I handle my personal protection is a prime example. I shoot a smaller handgun now, and I’ve changed from the Weaver stance to the Chapman. I’m more alert when I’m out and about, knowing that I’m less likely to prevail in a physical confrontation, and that I no longer have the ability to outrun most attackers. I also avoid high-crime areas. I have become a staunch believer that old farts should all carry guns, just to keep the young wolves honest. As a concealed carry instructor, I teach my retirees that flight is usually not an option. When you’re faced with a life-threatening attack, you have to bring the gun into play in order to survive.
But the one ray of sunshine I have for them is this: The young, bad guy doesn’t expect you to fight back, and that’s your greatest advantage. All of us old military geezers know that if you have the element of surprise, you can overcome superior numbers and superior firepower. I love that youtube video of the 72-year-old Marine Corps veteran who was standing at the check-out of a local stop-and-rob, when the young man behind him tried to pick his pocket. You can view it here. I laughed out loud and cheered when the old man turned around, without a moment’s hesitation, and began beating the crap out of the guy. The old man’s name is Bill Barnes and he is my hero. You can view the whole story here.
Try doing an internet search on “old man beats up robber” and you won’t be disappointed. I can only hope that at 72 I’ll be as feisty as Bill.
So, despite the hair in my ears and the flab around my middle, the fire in my gut is still raging and I’m still a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. So don’t be messing with us old farts. It’s true that we were once young warriors, but now we’re too tired to run away, so chances are we’ll just shoot you. It saves us time and energy, and we have very little of both remaining.
Author’s note: I regret that Bill Barnes died of a heart attack. The whole story can be read here.
Take a moment please and check out Skip’s Book RKBA: Defending the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.