When our president visited the pope a while back, a tough topic reportedly arose. Age. The president quoted Satchel Paige: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”
The pope I guess chuckled. But the pope, who is eighty-five, knows. And so do I. My age is so remarkable to me, alas, that in order to wrap my mind around it, I have to spin a folktale.
A bunch of angels surrounding the pearly throne are going on about how people are trashing Earth.
“All those nice glaciers—melting!” one says. “Nowhere for the walruses to sit!”
“Aw, that’s nothing!” (Angels will try to top one another.) “Some nice towns on Earth. And flash floods washing them away!”
“Drought! Dry as dust!”
“Even drier: forest fires! So big the smoke blots out the sun thousands of miles away!”
“Hey! The sun is millions of miles away from Earth. I ought to know, because—”
“That’s vertical miles. I’m talking about west to east!”
“Anyway, when people don’t appreciate where they live, it’s trashy. Why not just go ahead and wipe out Earth?”
“Aww,” says a very deep, deep (which does not necessarily betoken gender), profoundly understanding voice.
(Let’s call the source of that voice the Original Creator. At this point in the tale, we must decide what the OC’s pronouns might be. Let’s say a step up from the royal We.)
“WE,” says the OC, “have always been partial to that planet. And even to some of the folks. Ol’ Moses. Wasn’t he something! Ol’ Helen Keller? How about ol’ Helen Keller! And ol’ Louis Armstrong! Didn’t he ramble! Of course maybe all the true characters are gone. WE tried to watch baseball the other day, and none of the players stayed in the game long enough to register. Fourteen pitchers! In one nine-inning game!
“But to just delete Earth? There’s still a lot of greenery. And some clean streams. Deleting Earth would delete the walruses. And the birds and rabbits.”
“But the people are wiping out the animals already!” an angel cries. “Spilling oil all over ’em!”
“The bees!” jumps in another angel. “They’re deleting the bees!”
The OC sighs. And reflects. There are other planets.
“All right. But WE are not cold-blooded. Nor heavy-handed. What WE will do is this: If the people are already destroying Earth, then no point in prolonging the agony. Henceforward: Fast-forward!”
That, folks, is the only explanation for why time, these days, is flying so fast. Accelerating. For a while, I was saying, “Wait a minute. It’s next Friday already?” Now whenever I look around, tomorrow was a week ago Tuesday.
And that is the only explanation for why I have all of a sudden turned so elderly.
Yes, I am still spry. Terrible word. What am I, a sprite? Next thing, you’ll be saying I’m “sharp as a tack.” Do people who are, like, thirty-five (an age that I distinctly recall reaching not all that long ago) ever get told they are sharp as a tack?
Let’s face it, though. I can no longer get away with “postmature.” Not at eighty.
That’s right. I have turned eighty. Already. My pronouns, now, are “Oh, me” and “What?”
But by godfrey, or whatever expression the young folks are using these days, I refuse to downright identify as old.
Not with that d on the end. That d like a dead end. That d that keeps me from rhyming with jelly roll.
Look back at how the OC referred to Moses and them. That’s what I’m going with: ol’.
Some may say ol’ is dated. Forty-five years have passed since Waylon Jennings dropped an album titled Ol’ Waylon. I don’t think we’ll ever see an album called Ol’ Lil Nas X.
To me, though, ol’ is still fresh. I get up in the morning, groaning, and I see our cat, Jimmy, and I say to him, “Ol’ Jimmy,” and he says to me, over his shoulder, “Mrrp.”
Which is cat for “Ol’ Roy.”
I know, there’s a brand of dog food by that name. That’s all right, Jimmy gets along with our neighbor dogs: ol’ Yogi and ol’ Agnes. They live with several cats. Also with a peaceable goose, ol’ Gloria.
Ol’ signifies fondness, dammit! Maybe if we referred to our planet as ol’ Earth, we’d start taking care of it. It’s personal with me: I don’t want to finish out my days at a sprint.