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October 04, 2009


Jimbo’s World (ISSUE #4) Boot Camp: Shock and Awe Shucks

As each decade of my life unfurls, I’ve bravely taken the time to stand naked in front of the mirror.

"Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s that chubsky shaped like a ball?"

It seems that at the completion of each decade of life, the wear and tear, the caloric top ups and the too-busy-to-move excuses, leave my endomorphic frame sagging and dragging like a sack of bulbous potatoes. The spare tire, the roll over, and the double chin become proof of the pudding -literally.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m in pretty good shape for an old guy. But the fact that I am an old guy is undeniable. I mean, people of my age unexpectedly bite the dust every day. I can prove it.

You see, each decade brings forth habits that, before long, take centre stage and become a part of the new "you". Take the task of scanning the daily obituaries, for instance. This daily ritual is not intended as a search for people you know, but rather to check the birth date and/or age of those who have recently "given up the ghost". Far too many are appearing in or around the age range I now find myself treading water.

A paper reading session goes something like this.

I turn to the obits, reading the first several lines, trying to pinpoint the important details.

"Hmmmmm! Here’s one. Date of birth, September 16, 1952. Holy crap, the dudes 57, younger than me. What’s with that?"

My finger skims down the entry looking for further clues. It’s my forensic scan for cause of death.

"Here it is. Donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. My gawd, the guy died of a heart attack."

Peering over my shoulder, my wife will interject, "Jim, there are lots of older people there in their 70's and 80's. Stop worrying, already!"

She’s right of course, until I’m 70 or 80, I won’t worry about them. I’m more concerned with . . "Charles Chesterman" here; dead as a doorknob after biting the dust at 57. Cause of Death: "The Big One".

My in-laws recently commented that, "Yes, we’re meeting a lot of our old friends at funerals these days." I believe the funeral "lunch" was a big part of my own parents social life as they got older. "Damn, those salmon salad sandwiches were good," my dad would announce.

I recall my dear father, when he was in the age-stage I’m now entering, being preoccupied with obituaries as well. He’d pick up my mother from work at noon so that they could have lunch together at home. He’d listen to the radio, she’d watch her favorite soap opera -The Guiding Light.

Parish the thought that I would be talking when the obituaries were announced on the radio.

"SHHHHHHHH! Quiet everyone," Old Joe would announce. "They’re about to list the funerals in town."

Privately, I came to call this, "The Death List".

However, it was the ensuing conversation that always made me chuckle. It went something like this.

DAD: "Bob Wilson? Wasn’t he married to Betty Brown?"

MOM: "No, Joe, that’s the Bob Wilson over on South Street you’re thinking of. The one on the radio is the Bob Wilson that works in the tax office at city hall."

DAD: "Oh, ya, he’s married to Art Stewart’s sister, Milly. Used to see him at the Lodge. Was kind of an odd duck, you know!"

MOM: "Now, Joe, you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead!"

DAD: "Visitations at 6 tonight, Helen."

Inevitably, mom and pop would get all "gussied up" in their "go-to-funeral" clothes and hurry off to the visitation.

As I got older I’d often ask, "But, dad, do you really know that guy very well?" It seems as if they were attending funerals at least once a week.

His answer would go something like this: "Well, no! We really didn’t know ,Bob, that well. But we knew his wife’s best friend, Martha, and we had a nice visit with her. Besides, First Church makes great salmon salad sandwiches."

But, I digress.

What in Hell’s name has this to do with the "mirror, mirror" on the wall experience?

Quite simply, it is the fact that old Jimbo could croak at any moment and his chances of doing so are increased with every fat fold he sees in the mirror. The prospect of my demise is thrown in my face daily. My generation is dropping like flies. Two of my three best friends growing up are now deceased.

When I turned thirty I became a runner (7 miles a day). At forty, after numerous injuries and knee problems, I became a walker. At 50, I bought a Universal machine and a treadmill. I watched CSI as I worked out. HHmmmm, I wonder why?

What am I to do at age 60 to keep this old body in fighting trim? Low inpact, sit-in-the-chair senior calisthenics!

No way, Jose!

After the "shock" and the inevitable "aw shucks", I picked up my bootstraps in early September and embarked on a Seniors Boot Camp regimen that would put me back in shape. There is a tale to tell in all of that.

Stay tuned for an update, but for now I’ve got to eat my bran flakes, down a couple of prunes then get started on my Tai Chi workout.