We've all seen athletes who try to stretch their careers for one more year, one more fight, one more championship - only to find out that their bodies have abandoned them. We pity them for their inability to accept the fact that they are past their prime.
I'm sitting here with a greater understanding of what they experience.
Our neighbor has a large stand of bamboo in her yard. We love bamboo for its beauty, and its musical qualities as it rustles in the wind. What we don't love is the reproductive vigor of some types of bamboo. For years, our neighbor's bamboo has tried to spawn a forest on our side of the fence. For years I have swept systematically through the area, snapping off shoots in the belief that the plant might die out. Not going to happen.
This fecundity wouldn't be so bad if bamboo knew when to stop, but in time it would fill our narrow side yard, then the back yard, and before long we could qualify as a panda habitat.
To our neighbor's credit, she had a couple of young men dig up many of the runners leading from the parent plant; they put a plastic barrier around it, but I can already see that there are areas where those roots will sneak through. They won a battle, but not the war.
I've talked for years about digging up all the roots on our side of the fence and putting down a long run of the plastic bamboo block. I want to win the war.
In a moment of folly, I announced to my wife that I was going to dig up the bamboo. When I got up this morning and realized what I had committed to, I worked my noodle overtime looking for a way out of the job. I even entertained the idea of shopping, briefly, but I knew I'd get the "You really have to get that bamboo out of there!"
So, off I went to Ace Hardware to buy a pick. My old one has been missing its handle for years - make that decades - and I can't find a handle to replace it.
Back at home, I tore into the lower section of yard with a vigor that surprised even me. Suddenly, I felt ... well, half my age. The fresh air, temperature in the 80s, swinging that pick and watching it dig deep into the earth was like a tonic that stripped away the years. I ripped and tore at that bamboo. You have to dig deep to remove those roots.
Three hours later I had dug up the first 10 feet of roots. By now I was on my knees swinging the pick. I couldn't get as much head speed, but it was easier on my back, and probably prevented me from toppling over.
I was about halfway through the job when the logical half of my brain kicked in, reasoning that this didn't have to get done in one day. I didn't want to be found facedown in the dirt.
I showered and sat down at the computer. Thankfully, all I have to move to write this is my fingers. We're going to our friend's house tonight for dinner and board games. I must fight the urge to nod off around 9.
Apparently, our brains don't get old. They may get addled, which would explain my volunteering to tackle this project, but my brain doesn't seem to acknowledge that my body is six-plus decades old, not three. We think we can still lift the front end of a car, or what- ever it was we did when we were young.
Before all the women read this, smirking, to their over-the-hill athletic partners, remember that you suffer your own lapses in accepting the advancing years. There are women with skin like a Sharpei, and nary a fleck of gray, and some of these same women wear dresses cut low, front and back, apparently convinced they still look as hot as they did when they were 20-something.
Don't get me wrong. You're entitled to make yourself look, and feel, good, but you're not fooling anyone that you're younger than you are. Just like we men are not fooling anyone but ourselves when we engage in activities with the intensity of younger men.
Am I taking to a rocking chair because we have to get a burning permit to light the candles on my birthday cake? Absolutely not, but here's hoping I'll remember today's numbness from the neck down, and moderate the pace when I make my next dim commitment.
Mike Davis is a freelance writer living in Magnolia.