Sunday, April 28, 2013

Re-Run Sunday: Pop historian ponders the middle ages

Howdy! This one was from four years ago, clear back in January of 2009. I'd calculate how much that is in Mars years, but it's Sunday and best I can do is muster this rerun. Stop by tomorrow, if you have time, when I plan on writing about songs that mention each day of the week.

I’ll be 46 next month. That’s about 24.3 in Mars years and that sounds about right.

When people tell me I’m middle aged, I feel like asking if they can correctly predict that evening’s winning lottery numbers. Calling me or anyone middle aged is a god-like prognostication.

I try and eat healthy and do a bit of no-sweat exercising, but predicting I’ll live to 92 seems like a bold stretch. My father died suddenly at 76, just about right on the money for what the actuarial tables calculated for a man of his generational dispositions.

My maternal grandfather, however, died this past summer at the age of 97 and he enjoyed a sturdy constitution right up to near the end. In fact, he was driving solo up until the age of 95. Sure, most of the safety-conscious residents of DuBois, Pennsylvania, knew he was out driving from 8 to 10 most mornings and stayed secure in their basements until about 10:30, but that doesn’t diminish the feat.

Me, up until just a few Earth years ago, I’ve always felt sort of Martian.

I felt like I was born 12. But soon after that age I started sneaking beers and felt immediately about 16. Then I endured all the adolescent hallmarks of a 16 year old -- no money, awkward around the girls, lived with my parents -- until I was about 24.

And that’s the age I’ve felt for the past 21 years. Really, just like when I was 24, I have no money in my checking account, I’m sort of looking for a job (not really), and figure if things don’t work out here in the real world I can still move back in with Mom who’ll no doubt have to cajole me to shovel her walk in exchange for an advance on that weekend’s beer money.

One of these days I’m going to get around to writing a story questioning when historians will stop pessimistically calling the epoch from 500 BC to 1600 BC, the Middle Ages.

I do lots of unpublished stories like that -- not because I believe anyone’s ever going to pay me to do them. That’ll never happen. I do it because it makes good conversation whenever I’m talking to an attentive 24 year old in a bar or classroom who for some misguided reason mistakenly believes age has earned me wisdom.

But when exactly did they start calling the Middle Ages, the Middle Ages? Are those the middle ages for the planet or the entire human race? By some mathematical interpretations, it could mean the end is nigh.

I don’t believe it. For all we know, the doomsayers could be wrong. Maybe earth is on the verge of a profound renewal where future historians begin referring to what we call the Middle Ages as something like the Puberty Ages.

Back when I was 24 Earth years old, I worked at a Nashville newspaper -- and for the purposes of this story let’s go ahead and call it The Daily Planet -- where I had to be at my desk at 6 a.m. I quit after a couple of years when I became convinced that the only things that got up that early ought to be milked.

During those pitiless pre-dawn mornings when roosters were still snoozing, it was often my job to write about the daily doom befalling numerous central Tennessee men and women. I often wrote about people who were expiring in what people called their middle ages. Their obituaries revealed their middle ages had been two decades previous.

I remember thinking, “Well, it’s a shame that drunken farmer stumbled into that rusty combine. But, hey, the guy was 46. He lived a good full life.”

Now, I’m nearly 46. I’ve lived a good full life.

Yet, I’m hopeful that when the demographers classify me as middle aged, it’ll one day turn out to be true. Despite these hard times, I really enjoy my life, my family, my friends and the odd little things I do to occupy my time while other middle aged men and women are at work fretting about the latest shower of pink slips.

Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll finally start feeling my age. There are some indications of advancing maturity. For instance, I decline all invitations to go out on Mondays because I prefer be home sitting on the couch watching one of our favorite television shows.

Coincidentally, the show is called “24.”

I have absolutely no fear of death. Just as long as it doesn’t have to hurt.

In my dreams, I thrive to be about, oh, 92 when I imagine myself skipping off a sidewalk and getting creamed by a speeding bus I never saw coming. I’m hopeful some 24-year-old news reporter will arrive at the scene and get quotes from startled eye witnesses who’ll swear they saw my soul shoot straight to heaven. And that my soul wasn’t wearing pants.

In the meantime, I’m going to insist that only scarfe-draped fortune tellers call me middle aged, and that your true middle ages -- no matter how old you are today -- remain many happy Martian years from now.

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