A Race for the Ages
By Ray Lucas
As I grow older, I frequently have a reoccurring conversation about feeling like I’m at least 10 years younger than my actual age indicates.
Whenever this topic of age comes up, it appears this is a common experience, as others agree they feel the same way. It seems most of us are growing older but still feel young at heart.
Each birthday, the number of candles I’ve just blown out doesn’t seem to fit. At 21, I still felt like I was in my teens. When I was 32-years-old, I still felt like a college student in my mind, ready to go out to Bardstown Road. Even now, unless I’m looking in a mirror, I still see myself as being in my mid 30s.
The effect is even more pronounced when I’m around high school buddies as we fall right back into our teenage stories, humor and ways of seeing each other. In my eyes, my best friends are still wearing their satin Silver Creek school jackets, 50 pounds lighter and have full heads of hair.
When did age become so relative?
Like Einstein’s general theory of relativity, I feel I have stumbled onto a nearly universal phenomenon that age bends and contracts just a certainly as light does around a black hole.
I remember as a kid sneaking out of bed to watch my parents play cards with friends one night around our kitchen table. At about eight years old, I recall thinking that this is what really old people do: play cards, laugh too hard and stay up late on Fridays nights.
As I reconstruct that memory, I now realize that my parents and their friends were about 28 at the time. I had seen them as being so old, but in reality they were still kids themselves. In the strange cosmic way that age works, I’m sure they probably felt 18 at the time.
These days, I don’t typically feel my age of late 40s. I guess I thought I would feel differently as I grew older. I assumed I’d be wiser than I am. I was sure I’d be more sedentary, in my recliner chair watching Matlock. Instead, I find myself throwing football in the yard with the kids, playing cards with friends on Friday nights and attending musical festivals with concert goers half my age. Heck, I recently climbed a tree. This is 40-something?
Don’t get me wrong, there are days I do feel my actual age. I have learned about the triple crown of mid-life health maintenance in the past year as I tend to dental crowns, cholesterol and colonoscopies. So far I’m doing OK on the three “c’s” and the only age-related health issue has been a recently bruised ego.
Over the winter my 17-year-old son was preparing for a jog when I blurted out, “I’m sure I could still beat you in a race.” I’m not sure what possessed me. I was joking – kind of.
“Dad, there is no way you can beat me in a foot race,” was the response of my confident and objectively more fit son. Still, I wasn’t completely convinced that he could beat me.
“I used to run track,” I countered.
“Well, I’m sure you used to weigh 150 pounds, too, but that doesn’t really help you now does it? I would crush you, Dad.”
My son went out of his way to show his amusement at my wild claim. And with that challenge to my vitality, it was race time.
The next thing I knew, he put on running shorts, and the rest of the family was giddy to have a front row seat to the Lucas vs. Lucas showdown.
We decided on a 50-yard foot race along our driveway, starting at our cedar tree and ending at my dad’s driveway next door, which I estimated to be the perfect distance for me. Not too long where I will run out of energy, but long enough for me to show my speed.
I ASSUMED I’D BE WISER THAN I AM. I WAS SURE I’D BE MORE SEDENTARY, IN MY RECLINER CHAIR WATCHING MATLOCK.
My wife videoed the spectacle, and I thought to myself, “Good. I’ll be glad I have the footage as proof when I beat him.” At this point, I had pretty much convinced myself that against all odds I was going to pull out the win.
“On your mark, get set!” yelled out my wife and official starter. “Go!”
The start of the race was bit of a blur. I remember coming out of my starting stance strong. I had on my fastest shoes. I had a good jump when I heard “Go!” I was focused on pushing forward and getting into a quick sprint.
And then things start to go sideways.
Literally, I went sideways as I started to lose my balance in the first strides and fell over onto my knee and shoulder. As quickly as it started, I was on the ground rolling to a stop and trying to decide if I had hurt anything beyond my pride.
I heard laughs from the cheering section, which were painful. I then heard real concern from my son: “Dad, are you OK?”
My hip was a little sore and the sting of humiliation was sharp. I laughed at myself as I stood up and checked my body for visible damage. I tried to play it off as though I had planned the stumble.
My son yelled to the videographer, “Please text that to me because I know Dad will try to erase the video.” The thought of destroying the evidence had indeed already crossed my mind.
Despite my smile and attempt to play off the embarrassing results, the truth of the matter is that until that moment – the moment I skidded to the pavement – I still felt like I had a chance. I still felt 10, 20, even 30 years younger than I was.
This literal race for the ages has left me with an updated theory on Father Time.
Age may be relative, but sooner or later it outruns us all. The next time I challenge someone to a footrace, it won’t be my son 30 years my junior. It will be my bald buddies from high school. Those guys are really starting to look old.