As the years continue their inexorable march toward oblivion, one notices certain differences in the way one lives. And with a nod to Sheldon Cooper, one can also get one’s self beat up in grade school by referring to one’s self as “one.” But I digress. When I was younger, I could bounce out of bed, bound down the stairs and bolt out the door without making a noise other than a “whoosh” as I passed my parents on the way out. I would laugh with derision at my 40-something parents who crept out of their rooms, grumbling and grousing as they headed to the kitchen for their morning caffeine fix. They seemed to move so slowly and carefully as if worried about hurting themselves by moving too fast. When they sat down, they made the oddest noises, kind of like an old car that didn’t want to start on a cold morning. Meanwhile, I was in a late model sports car that ran nice and smooth. Of course, I teased and, of course, karma cannot allow one to gloat with impunity. I am now 46 and I have had to face the differences in how my body works these days. I find myself watching the new models run past me and I can no longer bounce, bound or bolt anywhere.
In fact, if I try to bounce out of bed, I am more likely to bounce off the floor after falling over. The only way I know I can make it to a standing position is because our bed is high enough that if I put my feet on the floor, I am already halfway up. If I had to actually rise to a standing position from a regular bed, it would take me about 15 minutes of warm up exercises before making the attempt. After getting myself to a stooped standing position, I amble in short, halting steps until the blood flows enough to get my muscles working right. A process that takes longer each day; soon I fear it might last until the next morning.
But the stiffness of middle age is not the worst thing about being—well—middle-aged. It is the noises my body makes as I go through the day that are the real cause for concern. I was laying in bed watching TV the other day when my stomach started a conversation with anyone who would listen. Now, I was not particularly hungry, but my gastric system was on a diatribe that would make anyone think I was on day six of a five day fast. And it wasn’t those subtle little rumbles you excuse in polite company. No, these were gurgles and churns that marine biologists might expect to hear from the depths of the abyss. My stomach was speaking fluent whale! But wait. There’s more. Not only can my belly communicate with cetaceans, it also imitates drip coffee makers. I’m sure the mister coffee in the hotel room in which we stayed was confused by what it heard. I know I was.
Of course, my digestive tract is not the only noisemaker I have at my disposal. In fact, if I want to get the attention of anyone in a room, I merely have to stand up. The resulting pop from my knees would silence a room better than a teacher smacking a ruler on a desk. It doesn’t stop with just one pop either. Sitting or standing sounds like a stampede of kindergarteners in a bubble wrap factory. Even my dog looks at me when I stand as if saying “Dude, can you still walk?”
And my joints are not the only noise makers when I get up. I sound like a professional weightlifter groaning with the effort of hoisting a world-class barbell over his head—just from getting out of my recliner. I’m sure small children down the street must think our house haunted from all the moans and groans that come from just doing everyday chores. I can’t blame them for being afraid; I know I have scared myself plenty of times.
Making noises really isn’t as bad as I thought it was when I was younger, though. Sure, I teased my folks, but it was easy to do when you’re in a body that hums like a new car and they are driving along in late forties models that have been in need of a tune up for 20 years. But now I know that while my body is not a brand new, top of the line sports model (as if it ever has been) neither is it a rusted-out old clunker. I prefer to think of it as a classic. And all the noises it makes just add character. Besides, once I stop making noises, then it is time to be worried. Call it an early warning system. And if you stop by and hear something you didn’t expect, don’t worry. It’s probably just some part of my body saying hello.