WIUM Tristates Public Radio

When I’m 64

Mar 12, 2014

A bit of resistance or resentment at aging is not unexpected, maybe.

But Matt Dillon in a recently aired episode of the half-hour, black-and-white 1950s version of “Gunsmoke” asked a grizzled, disheveled fellow how old he was, and the drifter replied, “Sixty-four,” to which the U.S. marshal replied, “OK. See you, old-timer.”

That’s when THIS 64-year-old guy bolted upright so abruptly – exclaiming, “WHAT?!” so loudly – my four-year-old black-Lab viewing companion leaped off the couch and ran to the TV to bark at it, too.

Within hours, however, I ran across Mary-Lou Weisman’s “My Middle-Aged Baby Book” from Workman Publishing and released all of my shock and bile, and I laughed out loud.

Bill Knight

Who knew how similar middle age was to infancy?

This new edition of a hilarious spin on the traditional baby book is illustrated by Paul Meisel, whose colorful and zany graphics and charts are spot-on. And the production itself is impressive – and part of the joke.

(The cover is in the classic, padded/chewable style and inside, the format is large type on anti-glare paper – perfect for those blended bifocals you deny enjoying.)

However, it’s the text that’s the most humorous.

If you’re finally old enough not to take yourself too seriously, this is a pleasant diversion from the usual fare of books, magazines, newspapers and – OK, OK – old television shows on some Western channel.

Weisman makes it obvious that the whole notion of “middle age” has become, shall we say, flexible – unlike our bodies.)

Exactly. If 64 is middle age, do I expect to live to be 128? I don’t think so.

Check out the Baby Boom generation’s current equivalent of the baby book: “Memorable firsts.” The writer’s memorable firsts include not only “my first gray hair,” but “my first colonoscopy,” “my first conservative opinion” and “my first involuntary release of urine while sneezing.”

(OK, OK; not YOU – but you KNOW someone, right?)

Whimsically, Weisman asks, “Do you turn to the obituary pages for reassurance?”

Unsaid, it’s reminiscent of the old comeback, “Yes, to make sure I’m not there.” However, don’t we also look at obits to search for people we know – and the AGES of everyone there?

The author has written other books, including “Traveling While Married” and “Intensive Care: A Family Love Story” and journalism for Newsweek, Vogue, Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times. But this book demonstrates that her meandering, writerly mind is a multi-generational mine field of delight.

She asks, “Am I smiling or is it gas?”

Later, she presents handy bullet-point boxes, just waiting for checkmarks on, “I have … ADHD, ACDC, OCD, HBO, GPS, ESP ...”

Assisting our unstated questions, she also asks, “Why …

“Why do gums recede? “Why don’t I recognize the people in People anymore? “Why do some people take up two parking spaces? “Why do fingernails get ridges? “Why don’t I feel any older?

Elsewhere, her “See what I’ve grown!” page offers reminders we need not look in a mirror to confirm: turkey neck, pot belly, liver spots, varicose veins, enlarged prostate …

(Amazingly, there’s no reference to ear hair, which increasingly seems like yet more proof that God has a twisted sense of humor.)

The 88-page excursion into pleasing nonsense appropriately ends with a full-page cartoon of a Living Will.

Before filling it out, cry out with the Call of the Mild: “Fifty is the new 10!”  

Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; his twice-weekly columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.