Monday, September 29, 2008

Ageing and Growing Fearful

This morning I was out for my customary walk and it occurred to me that a car could go out of control behind me and strike me, lifting me high into the air, sending me into a tree trunk. I envisioned myself losing consciousness before striking the tree and was grateful for that mercy. Then I wondered why such thoughts would trouble me. Is increased fearfulness one of the infirmities of ageing?

As a young man, my friend Ron Schindel and I fixed up a ’47 Plymouth to carry us to our first year of undergraduate studies. I recall my relaxed sense of freedom as we sped down the highway. I had no dependents. I had no lofty ambitions. I thought that if we suddenly hurtled into a farmer’s field and hit a tree, that’s life, or.

Danger and risk did not bully me. I was strong and fast and fearless. I had an impression of invulnerability. One of the summer jobs I enjoyed was as a linesman on the St. Lawrence Seaway which required taking a lake freighter’s heavy steel cable around a pylon winch and then when the ship had been lowered within the lock system between Lakes Erie and Ontario, I would secure my foot and peer fearlessly to the boat deck 80 to 100 feet below, then gradually lower and release the cable. Today one of the recurring subjects of night dreams is falling from heights. I look from high buildings with misgivings.

As a young father I was a hero in both my children’s minds and my own. I would protect my family at the cost of my own life. I was sure of it. Now I realize that I am always pleased when I am in the company of my 38 year old son, tall and powerful. It doesn’t help that my spine has compressed and I have shrunk, I think about a foot.

I drive a Miata MX5 which is fast. Maybe it’s a good thing that I couldn’t afford it when I was younger because I might not have been as careful as I am now. Now I am very aware of what speed can do when a body is suddenly stopped. Perhaps it’s the years of life experience that have educated me to be fearful. Perhaps it’s not a weakness.

I think I should cut out bread products, increase my water intake, work out to develop an ironman physique, cut out sugars, and beef up my self esteem. Will I? Maybe tomorrow.

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