The ways getting old sucks continues to bloat.
The latest is I'm increasingly bugged by food getting caught between my teeth. I don't remember this being so annoying even a decade ago.
So I googled it.
From Moore Family Dental in Amherst, NY:
"Although people of any age may have food get stuck between their teeth, you may be more prone to it as you get older. The enamel wears down with age, so your teeth get a little smaller and the spaces between them get slightly wider, which means food gets trapped more easily.”
On top of all the expected stuff, this too? Our teeth get smaller?! I anticipated skin wrinkling, hair thinning and strength waning, but teeth shrinking? Come on Universe!
But whenever I'm missing the simple joys of youth - like not needing a roll of dental floss after every meal - I'm comforted by the gifts that weren't in my life before I turned 60.
Coale and Dwyn .
Coale (6) and Dwyn (4)
It's not only the love and joy I feel being with my grandgirls, it's how much I learn when I'm around them.
I took Dwyn to a pet store to buy $4.99 bag of bird seed. At the checkout stand, she spotted this strategically placed $2.99 sticker.
Even though it probably foretells an event in Dwyn's future, it didn't seem worth it to me. Does she even get it? But since it's no secret that she has me wrapped around her finger, it surprised no one when I bought it for her.
Still, when she immediately wanted to peel it from its backing and stick it on her shirt, I resisted.
"Don't you want to save it for later and put it on something special? Something where it will last?"
The irresistible Dwyn Bay
She wasn't having it.
"No. I want to put it my shirt."
"Let's ask your mom."
Both her mom and grandma were on my side.
"Why don't you use one of your magnets to put in on the refrigerator for now. We'll find a good place for it later."
Dwyn reluctantly complied, and moved on to whatever next intrigued her. Three days later, the sticker was still there.
Dwynie's sticker, now forgotten
When I saw it, I felt sad and contemplative. Who's right here? Me with my Irish roots and Catholic upbringing, the guy who will always save the marshmallow? Or Dwyn with her "I want it on my shirt now!" free spirit?
Postponing immediate gratification while hoping for a later, larger reward is rooted so deep in my essence that I have never in my life eaten the dessert first.
I used to teach the "Now and Later Lesson." I'd give the the kids a single Now or Later and tell them that they could have it now. "But if you don't eat it now, if you save it until tomorrow and show it to me at the beginning of class, I'll give you another one."
Some of the kids ate it immediately (probably the ones who loved Now and Laters) while some saved it (probably the ones who could take or leave Now and Laters).
Then I'd make my "postponing immediate gratification for a long-term reward" speech:
Study now and get into college later
Play around less now and enjoy more fun later
Save your money now and buy something big later
I still believe it. It's not a bad lesson. For 32 years I saved and invested a chunk of my monthly paycheck. Because I did, I'm able to enjoy a financially comfortable retirement. Waiting is in my DNA. I'm able to relax more after I work. Food tastes better after I fast. I'm so much more comfortable after I've been uncomfortable.
But that's me. It's not for everyone. And it's not the only lesson. There's a flipside:
Follow your interests now and see where they take you
Play with your classmates today and develop lifelong friendships
Relish life's present, unexpected gifts. Enjoy a Now and Later now.
Aristotle spoke of "the golden mean" - a balance between two extremes. I'd argue that it's more of a golden spectrum. A mean is the middle. The mean of 4 and 6 is 5. Living on the mean - the exact center between two extremes - is unrealistic and boring.
In this case, on a 1-10 scale (where 1 is living like there's no tomorrow and 10 is perpetually postponing immediate gratification for a future payoff), I'm about a 7.
But until Coale and Dwyn, I was at least an 8, maybe even a 9.
Being better at living in the moment is the most recent lesson I've learned from Coale and Dwyn. Sometimes, for some things, especially when you've just turned 67, it's best to just peel off the damn sticker and stick it on your shirt.