On Getting On by Jamie Kirkpatrick


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I vividly remember the first time I successfully tied my shoes. I was in the back seat of my parents’ Buick at the corner of Fifth and Penn when all of a sudden the bow just happened. I’m guessing I was only four or five at the time but I felt like such a grown-up. I was on my way!

Now my feet seem very far away. It’s not because I’m tall; it’s because it’s getting harder and harder to bend over. Stiffening joints, inflexibility, widening girth, little aches and pains: the signposts are hard to miss. I’m getting older. Maybe I’m already there.

A few months ago, I attended my 50th high school reunion. It was a glorious spring weekend in Connecticut and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many of my former classmates back on campus. I even recognized a few; thankfully, name tags helped me remember the others. We reminisced, introduced our spouses, and brought each other up-to-date on the hits and misses of our lives in the fifty intervening years since graduation. It felt good to be back in the fold.

Of course, the irony of the situation was not lost on us. We remembered our student days and seeing old alums coming back to get all misty and nostalgic about their days at “our” school. “We’ll never be like that,” we said. Oh yeah? Well guess what: now we were the geezers and I thought I heard snickering from the current crop of teenagers. Be careful, young ones: the wasp of karma sure can sting.

As the sage guru once said, aging sucks. Things we used to take for granted now seem like miracles. Wasn’t it just yesterday when I could throw a full batting practice and run the Boston Marathon? Or party like a rock star and wake up the next morning not feeling like I had been run over by a dump truck? Or jump over parking meters? (I used that one a lot when I wanted to impress a new girlfriend; now I squint at the app on my mobile phone trying to figure out how to feed the damn things.) These days, I celebrate smaller victories like staying awake until ten, or remembering where I left the car keys, or the satisfying feeling of certain bodily functions that are not for publication in an online family newspaper.

Graceful aging; what a concept! The trick, of course, is not to succumb to the advancing years, but that’s easier said than done. Yoga would definitely help but the outfits would be a problem, let alone the physical demands of even the most basic positions. My daughter-in-law who is a highly respected nutritionist suggested a healthier diet. Fine with me—as long as I can have fries with that and another glass of wine with dessert. “Come on, let’s go for a bike ride,” my wife says. “Be right there,” I respond, “soon as I finish this nap.” Fighting the good fight sounds so right but feels so wrong, kind of like the pants in my closet that mysteriously shrink each time I put them on.

Oh: I just remembered that I began this Musing with a story about the first time I tied my shoes. Now I choose footwear that don’t require any tying. In fact, I’m barefoot as I write this. Makes me feel like a kid again!

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

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