Counting life by tens
of Grass Valley
Nine years ago, when I turned 80 I wrote, with what I hoped was just the right note of nonchalance, that I was entering my eighth decade. Unfortunately I was wrong. I was then entering my ninth decade!
This error was pointed out to me with the utmost kindness and tact by a careful reader who is also a perceptive editor. She explained that when one reaches age 80, one has already lived 80 years or eight decades. Therefore, inevitably, the next step is into the ninth decade.
I accepted this incontrovertible logic with the rueful acknowledgment that, once again, my uncertain grasp of arithmetic had resulted in my reaching a false conclusion.
I will admit that upping the decade count put a small dent in my bravado.
For a while I seemed to see the words, “It is later than you think” written on the walls in my house.
I went through a period when I obsessively practiced counting backwards from one hundred by threes in case I ever needed to be evaluated by a neurologist who I had been told sometimes used this as a quick test of mental competency.
Thank goodness my life gradually settled back into its usual channel and has flowed along since then without any particular turbulence – if I discount annoying little memory lapses, a tendency to nod off while reading, diminished range of motion in practically all of my joints and a total lack of enthusiasm for climbing hills or flights of stairs or anything else vertical.
In my opinion, there is nothing to be gained by making a statistical analysis of every little deviation from the norm. (In the first place who in the world gave some committee the right to set up norms for the rest of us to try to measure up to?)
Anyway, the other day when I was feeling particularly alert, organized and well-balanced, I made the mistake of deciding to look at next year’s calendar in order to decide on exact dates for some of my projected activities.
Alas, I was then brought face to face with my tenth decade! This milestone with a zero in it loomed large and cast a dark shadow.
Here I was, once again, confronted by the inexorable passing of time and I realized that I have far, far more time behind me than I have ahead of me.
Not only that, but the slower I go, the faster time goes!
I remember being taught something long ago about inverse relationships. I think I have just met up with one, and this is not a good thing.
When faced with unsettling and incontrovertible facts, I have found that it sometimes helps if one alters one’s way of dealing with them.
What came to mind in this instance was how we played hide and go seek when I was a child.
Whoever was “it” had to count to one hundred by ones to give everybody else enough time to find a hiding place.
Counting by tens was strictly against the rules. As a way of stretching time, I have now decided to stop counting in decades and instead count in years.
The beauty of my scheme is that it allows me quite a bit of “wiggle” room.
If I want to I can slow time even further by counting time in terms of months, weeks, days, hours, minutes or as a last resort, seconds.
I realize that at some point I will stop counting altogether, but I’m sure that will be all right.
I surely will have fallen fast asleep because that’s what I always do when I’m counting backwards by threes or counting sheep.
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