Happy Birthday, Uncle Marvin! The big 6-0 today! Oh….it's not? Sorry.
No, no,no…you don't look old. Just….older. You're aging, Marv, and fast: your birthday candles are coming in singles, but your health is passing in dog years.
Now, I don't mean to make you feel bad, Unc. But that hair you call 'salt-and-pepper'? It's ash, Marvy, as in the '….dust-to-dust' rhyme. You've tipped, and it's going to be a long battle to regain the summit. Backwards, uphill, in the snow. You know, the same way you used to walk to school every day.
I mean, I train with guys your age, Marv, and they regularly whip me. Take this guy, Ted Fryia – his hair is greying at the edges, too. But his roots: man, they're black. He's getting younger. He's reversed his medication regimen. He's OFF. You can do the cosmetic stuff, but we both know that it's like sticking your finger in the gun barrel, right Marv? It's barely even the illusion of control. At some point, that trigger's still going to be pulled. But if you can wrestle a bit, or dodge a bit, then you've got a bit more say in the way you go out.
I know, I sound like one of those Hippies to you, Marv. But those guys talking about 'live in the moment' and 'be in the now?' They're onto something here. They're telling you to be aware or be gone. But awareness means fear, anxiety, and hard texture. Contact with the world of solids and self-doubt. No more watching from your lawn chair. No more bearing witness from the safe stupor of the margins.
I love you, Marv. And that's why I'm coming to pick you up tomorrow. I'll clean the coffee cups out from my truck, just for you, and I'll take you for a ride. Not a dog-out-the-window ride, Marvin; a ride with purpose. A destination in mind. Tomorrow, you're going to put on those track pants that you keep aside for dripping paint onto. You're going to wear that "No Problem, Jamaica" tshirt that's usually reserved for barbecues, and you're going to sweat in it. When you squeeze a barbell, you're going to feel every little crease in that knurling. It's going to pinch a little. You will not be comfortable, Marvin.
I'm not talking about "turning back the clock," or all the other grocery-line cliches that sell magazines. What I'm talking about is flicking the minute-hand with your finger. Maybe living a day that isn't centred on counting the digits to five o'clock. Measuring time differently. Blocking the second hand's swooping red arc. Maybe, Marvy, if we hold it there long enough, the gears will strip.
When I was a kid – you remember that, right? – I went to a lecture at school. There was this guy – grey hair, ponytail, probably a communist - who asked us how long we were going to live. We raised our hands in the air, and no one dropped their arm when he barked, "80?" Some lowered their hands when he said, "90?" and most stopped when he said, "100?" He kept his own in the air, though. "150?" Still up. And up and up, to 200 years old. Today, that guy is biking through Ethiopia, trying to plant some trees, Johnny Evergreen from Northern Ontario. He's in his 70s, Marv. Remember when you asked mom to open the lid on the mayo for you a few minutes ago? You're better than that.
It's not about 'whipping you into shape,' Marv. It's not about "helping your ticker" or "keeping you regular" or any other made-to-fail byline you'll slide away on. It's about that time, when I was four, and you picked me up at school because it was raining. It's about the time when you lent Mom a hundred bucks for groceries – thought I didn't know? – when I had to get braces. It's about that time when you let me try a sip of beer after I'd been piling wood with you all day in July. It's time for me to pay that back, Uncle Marv, and with interest.
Look at these guys, Marvin. REALLY look. No, I can't get you there. Auntie Mary would kill me if the thrusters don't first. Hell, I'm going to have to train really hard to get there myself. But I want you to see the REAL beanstalk, and I want you to see that it isn't Wilford Brimley and his magic beans at the top.