I overslept Tuesday morning. Overslept bad.
On most mornings, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. That’s 0530, also known as “oh-dark-thirty.” My friend Adrian Cronauer, who used to wake up the troops on Armed Services Radio by shouting “G-o-o-o-o-o-d Morning Vietnam,” always said it was called “oh-dark-thirty” because it stood for “oh-my-God it’s early!”
It isn’t that early for someone raised on a farm and who spent his later years working for an afternoon paper where people went to work at 7 a.m. Waking up at oh-dark-thirty became second nature, no matter where I was in the world or how tired I might be.
Not on Tuesday, though. The clock on the wall said 8:37 a.m. before the throbbing sounds of the stereo shattered that I seem to remember was a nice erotic dream. But dreams can’t survive a pounding bass or the screeching sound of Sammy Hagar singing I Can’t Drive 55.
I Can’t Drive 55? Just my wife’s sick way of wishing me a not-so-young 55th birthday. Maybe she’s looking to trade up to a younger, faster, model.
Terrific. I turn 55, the official age of Senior Citizenship, and oversleep for the first time in years. I should have turned over, gone back to sleep, and missed the entire day.
Age, Satchell Paige once said, is simply a case of mind over matter. “If you don’t mind,” he said, “It don’t matter.”
Sorry Satch. It does matter. Spending an extra 30-minutes under the hot water in the shower just to limber up the old muscles and dull the ache of arthritis matters. So does trying to work out the kinks of a stiff ankle broken months ago but still not healed and fully functional.
This is the time when names of friends appear in the obits. Friends the same age as you. Friends younger than you. This is the time of life when your doctor ends every sentence with “for your age.”
Age is God’s way of reminding us we are inhabitants of this Earth for only a finite period of time, a life sentence that may be long or short, depending on factors too often out of our control.
We enter life full of youthful enthusiasm and hope. With luck, we manage to blunder through that life without too many missteps and might even accomplish a thing or two before giving in to the ravages of age. Then we creak towards the end of life with the hope that somehow, somewhere along the way, we managed to make a difference during our brief moment in time.
Too many of us approach life as something that owes us, demanding returns on an investment not yet made. But the truth is, we owe life more than we can ever pay, a bill that will come due when God calls in the loan and grants no further extensions.
At 55, I think about payments still due on that loan called life. You can’t just keep making payments on the interest. The principal can come due any day. Did you use the loan of life as intended or did you just squander it away?
Those thoughts dominated as I stood under the hot water after oversleeping on the morning of my 55th birthday. What, I wondered, should I celebrate on this birthday – a life well spent or a future where more needs to be done?
After more than an hour under the steaming water, the dull ache of arthritic bones remained.
So did the question.
The books are still open.
And the account is not closed.