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I See Dead People

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Amy managed "injured" with style Amy managed "injured" with style

Politically Incorrect and growing old

I see dead people.

Lucky for me, not in the way that poor kid in the Night Shamalayan movie saw dead people as, frankly, that would both freak me out and gross me out, in no particular order. Nevertheless, there’s rarely a week goes by anymore that doesn’t find me out and about and, out of the corner of my eye, catching a glimpse of someone I know who is no longer with us on this physical plane. I’ll wave, shout out a greeting, or even head their way to say hi before it occurs to me that the person I’m going to talk to is dead. If there’s opportunity for a second glance (sometimes I’m already long past them before I realize what I’ve done), I generally see the person in question bears only a superficial resemblance to the person I thought they were. This, I guess, is clear evidence that I am getting old.

Not that I really needed more evidence, given the vibrant crop of hair I’m cultivating on my chin, but somehow, the evidence keeps pouring in anyway.

For example, I’ve noticed recently that I’ve developed the “old person stomp.” For those of you whose experience of this is still somewhere in the future, let me enlighten you. You wake up in the morning, get out of bed and head to the kitchen to start the morning coffee. On the way there you realize your muscles and joints just aren’t flexing the way they normally do, and you’re moving in a modified Zombie shuffle that for some reason causes your feet to hit the floor rather heavily. By the time you get the coffee going, the computer booted up and head to the bathroom to make room for the coffee, your walk is approaching normality again. If you’re my age, that is. If you’re older than I, this process may take a little more time and if you’re older than dirt, it may be your new way of walking. Fun.

Part of aging, of course, is losing your hair color and that part has never bothered me much—at least, it didn’t until I started wondering what was actually going on. Here’s the picture I have in my head: Somewhere in your body, a new cell whose job is to become hair is making its way to your head. Sometimes it forgets how to get there and ends up sprouting out of your chin or your ears or some other place where you don’t really want it to be sprouting, but most of them (thank GOD!) end up making it to the top of your body.

And then they stop. “Oh crap. I forgot how to do color!” they exclaim. 

The ones who both forget how to do color  and get lost on their way to where they belong are particularly disconcerting.

Really makes you wonder what the cells in your body that are not head hairs are losing their ability to do. (If it really makes you wonder, by the way, turn to the end of this magazine and read what my old-as-dirt friend Boots has to say about their actions. And then buy some Boots Reynolds originals from Leanin’ Tree cards.)

Of course, nothing makes you recognize you’re getting older more than when you recognize your children are getting older, and I have three who are opening my eyes to that reality.

Surprisingly, it’s the two youngest who have done so recently.

First was my baby, who managed to impale her calf with a stick about as big around as the size of my finger, all the way through her calf. “How did she manage that?” you ask. Well, we have told several different stories in an effort to spice this tale up, but the truth is, you should never hike in the dark. If you do hike in the dark, you should never go off-trail thinking it’s a shortcut. If you do go off-trail, you should never bushwack up the side of a brushy mountain. And if you do bushwack up the side of a brushy mountain in the dark... DO NOT TRIP.

Thanks to a 2 am emergency surgery, the extraordinary skills of Coeur d’Alene orthopedic surgeon William Sims, and her own perseverance with physical therapy (AKA torture), Amy is walking normally, thank you.

Then Dustin broke his collar bone. “How did this happen?” you ask. I can say turning this one into a good story means deviating completely from the truth. I can also say that my son, despite his many talents, is a terrible ninja. Let’s leave it at that. 

Obviously, these two events contributed greatly toward speeding up my own aging process, but they are also an “aging milestone” for my children. You see, one thing that differentiates old people from younger (other than the shuffle, the grey hair, the beards on women, that is) is the recognition that the least little thing can change your life in an instant. If you’re lucky, learning that lesson can be a relatively painless process, as it was in the case of my kids. For others, the repercussions of one little unjudicious act last a lifetime—and sometimes mark the end of a lifetime.

If you were wondering, by the way, Misty (my oldest child) does not get a pass in this. I will never forget when she was pregnant with Tyler, and ended up upside down in a ditch, hanging from the seatbelt, the music CDs she had stolen (she says “borrowed without permission”) from me scattered in the mess on what had been the roof of her car.

Aging, of course, is far, far better than the alternative, so I don’t want to appear that I’m whining in any way. I am glad (and very lucky myself) to have reached the point where I can wonder just what the hell is going on with the cells in my body and engage in futile efforts to instruct them mentally on what it is they’re supposed to be doing. Hopefully, I will be really lucky, and get to witness my own children’s journey through this experience as well.

Yes, children, this is your future. So quit making fun of my beard. (And by the way, sorry, Mom.)

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Author info

Landon Otis

Tagged as:

ghosts, aging, Amy Gannon, Misty Grage, Politically Incorrect, injuries, Dustin Gannon, Dr. William Sims, Leanin Tree

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