Gray Gatherings


I wrote last week about my choice of three words for 2024. One of my words is flexible.

As I wrote, flexible not only in life’s schedule and events, but flexible in body.

Late in 2023, in the midst of five shows a night, six days in a row, my arthritis decided to flare up in my left knee. It’s always been there, as well as in my back, and hip, and…well, you get the idea.

This time it hit with a vengeance and I’ve been using a cane any time I have to walk much further than from my chair to the bathroom and back.

It’s not an injury, I don’t think. Just a flare up from too much use and not being in the shape to use it that way. It was also probably irritated by the white substances consumed since Thanksgiving. No, not snow or cocaine. Of course I’m talking about white sugar and white flour.

So, I’m doing a few things to recover. First is watching what I consume. That’s a challenge, but necessary, for the weight as well as the flexibility. I’m also back to doing a chair yoga routine and walking in the pool at least three times a week.

The pool is a challenge because the best time for me to get there is early in the morning and I just can’t quite bring myself to leave the house at 4:30. I have some morning routines and rituals that I don’t want to give up. And I’m not going to get up at 3:00 to do them.

Although Monday morning I was indeed wide awake at 3:00 a.m., which made it very hard to stay awake at 3:00 p.m.

I digress.

All that being said, whether it was necessary or not, I’ve been trying to get to the gym in the afternoons after work. Some afternoons are more equal than others.

Last Friday I had a work meeting offsite, so rather than heading back downtown, or plugging back into the laptop at home, I went to the gym to walk in the pool.

You’ve heard of the R.O.M.E.O. Club right?

Retired. Old. Men. Eating. Out.

Check out your local Hardee’s on any given morning.

True story. My wife and I were back in Kentucky for some event at our alma mater. We decided to grab breakfast at McDonald’s before heading back to campus. We got our meal, and found a table.

As we got up to leave, at least six older gentlemen got up and moved to “our” table. Apparently we had appropriated their regular meeting spot.

Again, I digress.

At the gym on Friday, I did my usual walking in the pool. I noticed, as I have on other weekday afternoons, that there were a lot of older gentlemen there.

Apparently that’s where the R.O.M.E.O club goes after Hardee’s.

I also noticed that I looked like I fit into their age demographic.

To be fair, most were probably a little other because they were officially retired. Although not that much older and my time is coming. If you know, you know.

In the hot tub, I overheard some of the conversation. These were regulars. They were talking about another regular who was recovering from some sort of surgery.

It was an Organ Recital.

That’s the term some of my friends and I use for the gathering of family, usually older family, who sit around and talk about their ailments and what medicines they are currently taking.

I realized there I was in the midst of them. Not out on the floor lifting weights or running the track. But limping my way between the pool and the hot tub.

I think I did myself a disservice last year. As I hit 65, I accepted it. I accepted the fact that I was, and am, an older American male. I think I let it make me old.

So that’s why I hiked less of the canyon that I would have liked, that’s why the arthritis flare up is taking more out of me now that in years past.

And that has to stop.

I shared my 2023 reading list last week. I asked for recommendations. I found this on my own, but thanks to Audible, I started listening to Dick Van Dyke’s Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths about Aging.

Van Dyke says:

I am a child in search of his inner adult, though the truth is that I’m not searching too hard. I don’t recommend anyone doing so. That is the secret, the one people always ask me about when they see me singing and dancing, whistling my way through the grocery store or doing a soft shoe in the checkout line. They say, “Pardon me, Mr. Van Dyke, but you seem so happy. What’s your secret?” What they really want to know is how I have managed to grow old, even very old, without growing up, and the answer is this: I haven’t grown up. I play. I dance with my inner child. Every day.

Maybe instead of accepting that I am, indeed, aging, I should let my inner child out a bit more.

Trust me, it comes out often enough to embarrass my children.

Flexible. That’s what I’m working on.

While recovering from this little flare up is taking longer than I like, I refuse to let it get me down permanently.

To paraphrase Dori, I’m just going to keep moving, just keep moving, just keep moving.

See you at Hardee’s.

Available on Amazon.

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