Bowie's last stand at age 69, Jan. 8, 2016
Bowie’s last stand at age 69, Jan. 8, 2016

With news of rock icon David Bowie’s passing on Monday  in New York City at age 69, I am reminded of a recent lament from a friend of similar vintage.

A simple “how you doing?” from me produced, “I am suffering from advancing age” from him.  He was only half-kidding, but I think the truth of it had just dawned on him, too. I told him I could relate, and knew exactly when one entered the ‘suffering from advancing age’ stage of life.

“When?” he asked.

“When you start actually using the word SUFFERING!”

For the great expanse of our lives we are just advancing in age, marching ahead, taking on the zombies and who-hahs as best we can.  That’s what going from 12 to 13 means, or 26 to 27, 42 to 45, advancing.  In fact, you can’t wait for the advance. Ever ask a little kid how old he or she is?

“I’m 3 1/2,” they’ll say, or, “I’m 3 1/2, going on 4.” Going on! It is all ahead, moving forward. Because when you’re 7 you want to be 8, and can’t wait to be ten so you’ll hit double figures and not be a “little kid” anymore. The teens years are like a catharsis before Sweet Sixteen puts you into hyper-drive, and 18 brings all new stature, before 21 introduces adulthood, and at 25 you stop getting carded every time you order a drink. It is all like a no-huddle two-minute drill before halftime.

Wish upon, wish upon, day upon day, I believe oh Lord
I believe all the way

But then you turn 30 and for the next decade or two life begins to settle and responsibilities gather, and you never tell anyone you’re 33 and a half, and you realize you don’t play on the ground anymore, either. You don’t have time to blink, much less look too far ahead. You raise kids and advance your career. It about this time when you realize you may have already had your best sex, your best meal, your best vacation, your best race, etc. And even if you’re not actually living the dream, you are at least aware of life’s benefactions, and advancing age actually makes you better at what you do.

Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, angel
Come get up my baby
Look at that sky, life’s begun
Nights are warm and the days are young

Then the ch-change begins. Oh, it’s innocent at first. For runners (or any athlete) it’s a small niggling injury that won’t clear up, and compromises the rest of your training. And you can hear folks complain about it and think it’s just temporary (think Tiger Woods a year or two ago).

“If I could just get over X, I’d be fine,” they say. But that’s just it. From this point forward it’s always going to be some small niggle or another that never quite clears up, and never lets you get back to your full water-tight self. This is when the word SUFFERING begins to crop up.

In walked luck and you looked in time
Never look back, walk tall, act fine


Curry Crossover
   Curry Crossover

One of the first signs of onset “age suffering” comes in your early 40s when you’re still kidding yourself thinking that you can play pick-up basketball. You know, when you still think in terms of Steph Curry or Lebron, and fashion yourself court savvy. But you and your opponents have now reached the stage when the neurological system has begun to fray, and the signals aren’t getting through quite fast enough.

Some of these days, and it won’t be long
Gonna drive back down where you once belonged

So even though your brain is saying, ‘fake left, then crossover right’, there’s a delay between thought and act, and same with the guy guarding you. The result is the two of you bump into one another like billiard balls, one going one way trying to complete the crossover while the other guy is still responding to the initial fake. Afterwards, you both go home with Elephant Man lumps on your face or ice packed around your knees, wondering why the hell that other guy is still out there playing.

But you’re both still delusional because you haven’t suffered enough of these “accidents” yet — even when you ought to know the time has come to take up some activity that doesn’t require sinuous moves, ‘cause you ain’t got any of those anymore — so you still drag your ass out there thinking all will be well.

Don’t cry my sweet, don’t break my heart
Doing all right, but you gotta get smart


"I'm giving it all she's got!"
“I’m giving it all she’s got!”

You know when it finally dawns on you? When you wake up with some odd pain and realize all you’ve done is sleep wrong. Yep, that’s when the deflector shields have all been compromised and there’s nothing Scotty can do down in the engine room to get them back up and running.

Yes, there was a time when you actually had to DO something to hurt yourself – fall out of a tree, crash a bike, play basketball at 44 – now all it takes is a small positional error in recumbent unconsciousness, and you’re walking around with a crick in your neck for three days while lamenting to friends about “suffering from advancing age”.

So please, take full advantage of your Golden Years while you still have them, ‘cause before you know it you’ll wake up one morning and not be able to turn your head to see what’s coming much less cross over and go left.

Run for the shadows, run for the shadows
Run for the shadows in these golden years.

RIP Thin White Duke



  1. Toni, I am still looking forward to my next age group (happens to be 65 on May 5), and so am approaching Medicare status, “how sweet it is” (per that old-timer, Jackie Gleason). At least it’s still sweet to sweat right now. Stay healthy!

  2. Toni, at 53 (54 in a of couple weeks), I’m fighting the good fight. 10k PR at 21 years of age; 33:15. 10k at 53; 39:37. Marathon PR at 20; 2:45:28. Marathon at 49; 2:59:53. Falmouth PR at 22; 39:32. Falmouth at 53; 45:10. I’m not giving up, yet!

  3. Didn’t Frank Sinatra say something about these passages in, ‘It was a very good year’?

    This morning I wrote on FB: “On BBC TV this morning in the UK they were interviewing people in David Bowie’s birthplace Brixton, London, where a spontaneous shrine of flowers and mementos has developed by a recently completed mural of him. Last night there was a spontaneous street concert playing of his music here with thousands in attendance. The vast majority were teenagers, 20s and 30s. One of the younger commented to the reporter, “He had so much still to offer.” – this of an individual at an age normally associated with dotage. He transcended ages and the defined norms – we can choose to follow him and be excited about what can be ………”

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