A View from the Hill: In an age-old pickle

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For the most part, I like being 70. Maybe that’s because when I’m not looking in the mirror, I feel more like 60.

But frequently, even without a mirror, I am reminded of my actual age.

Andrew MarstersLike when playing one-on-one basketball with my 17-year-old grandson this weekend. Since any basketball I throw goes everywhere but through the hoop, I was assigned to defense.

He said I could foul him in any way I liked. Excellent! But I quickly realized that foul or no foul, stopping this 6-footer who spends much of his spare time working out at the gym and has been playing basketball since he was 5 was like trying to body block a speeding Mack truck on Interstate 295. It’s simply not going to turn out well. For me.

When we tired of that, we took a bucket of baseballs onto the field so he could hit me some high flies. On the hits when I could actually see the baseball, I couldn’t move fast enough to get under the ball and it would thud into the grass 10 feet away.

We went home and played a board game.

I’ve noticed that the ability to move laterally quickly dissipates after age 70. This became clear when after years of resistance I gave in to the sport of pickleball. I had thought it was a senior version of tennis, which I had played adequately for years. It is, but it’s fun.

(Honest disclosure:  Years ago I played tennis regularly with the managing editor of this newspaper. I never, not once, ever won a match. Sometimes adequate doesn’t cut it.)

Anyway, pickleball. The game requires a lot of forward lunges and quick movements from side to side. “Move!” I order my body. But my hips and lower back do not do what I tell them to do. 

Fortunately, I can still learn from my elders. Every morning for a couple of years I have joined my neighbors for half an hour of outside qigong. Nevertheless, I still can’t bend over and touch my toes without cheating and bending my knees. Even with that, it’s a stretch. 

During qigong the other day, while trying to touch my toes, I stole a look at a 77-year-old neighbor, who had only weeks ago been mauled in a horrendous kayaking accident. He was neatly folded at the hips and had his palms flattened on the ground. I’ll get there.

I get tired of people my age saying they’ve never felt better in their lives. That’s bull. Headline from the most recent AARP bulletin beside a beaming Jamie Lee Curtis: “Life is so good these days for the super-creative actress, author, and advocate, she could just scream.”

So could I. 

If these people with their deteriorating minds could only remember what it was like to be 28, they’d realize just how ridiculous such a statement is.

I met with my dermatologist last week and he did his annual thing: Freeze a dozen spots on my head, look for trouble with a full-body scan with a flashlight. I want to tell him if you look hard enough, of course, you’re going to find something.

I didn’t say it. He did find something – my first potential basal cell carcinoma. He snipped some out and sent it to the lab. Told me not to worry.

I wasn’t worried. Actually, it felt kind of like a right of passage, like your first pimple as a teen. Unwelcome, but expected.

I’m sorry I don’t have Jamie Lee’s satin skin. But she’s just 62. Of course she “radiates energy and enthusiasm.” For now.

We’ll check back with her in eight years.

Andrew Marsters is an award-winning Maine journalist and former journalism instructor at the University of New Hampshire. He lives on Munjoy Hill.

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