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Tempus fugit, or how you can tell you’re no spring chicken

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As a gesture of goodwill toward my contemporaries — and there are a lot of us — I’m going to give adults of a certain age some tips that will help them embrace the onset of years. Here is a brief list of signs that you’re not as young as you think you are.

Your feats of memory are really at the feet of memory. They don’t call brief lapses of memory, many of which embarrassingly occur in midsentence, “senior moments” on a whim. You need to face it: you will get to the point where your greatest recollection achievements are suddenly remembering that you forgot something. You really feel good when you remember exactly what it is you forgot. Last weekend, I got all ready for my weekly Sunday excursion to Flower Memorial Library, packing up the books I read during the week and putting them in the entryway, all set to go. Then, about 3 miles from home, I got this sinking feeling. I pulled over and looked in the back seat, and sure enough — no book bag. Still, it was only a 6-mile detour, rather than the nearly 30-mile trip to the library and back...

You start looking for new hobbies. This is especially true for runners with aging knees, weight lifters and team-sports players. At some point, you realize it’s time to do some negotiating between mind and body because, really, pain is not an acceptable hobby. A lot of runners become bikers, weight lifters shift to lighter workouts, team-sports players look for less strenuous pursuits like drinking or watching hockey on Canadian TV networks. Bob Cornell of Adams, former advertising manager at the Times, has found a unique new hobby: chain saw sculpture. He’s got a smashing Abe-Lincoln-on-a-stump in his yard that’s worth a look. And last time I saw him, he still had all his limbs, the chief challenge for chain saw artists.

You suddenly decide to start reading “Literature.” At some point, if you are an avid reader, you will consider elevating your reading choices. If you’re a big fan of mysteries or Westerns or science fiction or any other fiction genre that is considered “low-brow” by the writers in the New York Review of Books, at some point you’re going to suddenly decide you need to start reading the Pulitzer Prize winner, or the Booker Award winner, or the Nobel Literature award winner, or ... well you get the point. When you start this, you frequently will be surprised at what literary critics consider to be award-winning writing. If you’ve already hit this point in life and are willing to acknowledge it, I’d love to hear of your experience. For me, I’ve found results all over the lot; I recall being enchanted by John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces” but found Thomas Pynchon’s “Vineland” dense beyond my patience. And don’t even talk to me about Salmon Rushdie.

You suddenly realize Newton Minnow was right. (For those who have forgotten: in a 1961 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, Federal Communications Commission chairman Newton Minnow called commercial television a “vast wasteland.”) Television has been an integral part of life for my generation, marked by such milestones as the space race and subsequent coverage of our nation above the atmosphere, a number of assassinations, a number of stirring speeches, even a war (the first Gulf War was short enough to qualify as a mini-series). Along the path, we’ve embraced both the ridiculous (“Webster”) and the sublime (“All in the Family”) and just about everything in between. The hallmark of that experience, however, is that we could always tell fiction (“The Rockford Files”) from fact (“CBS Evening News”). Both qualified as entertainment in that they captured our attention, but we could always tell the difference. Try that today. The airwaves are jammed with what are euphemistically called “reality” shows like “The Real Housewives of Plessis” and “Duck Dynasty.” If your IQ equals your age, you understand there is no reality involved. And without exception, these shows are schlock, or worse. The reason they exist: because a tightly scripted teleplay is expensive but a loosely outlined “reality” show is cheap-cheap-cheap. At our expense, of course.

Weeks that used to go for 168 hours have dwindled, far as you can tell, to about 140. The age-old question “where did the time go?” takes on a new and ominous meaning when you’re packing an AARP card in your purse or wallet. The advantage is that, if you’re still working, the days fly by. The disadvantage is, if you’re trying to wring the last gorgeous days out of summer, the days fly by. Tempis fugit is my life, and as you age, it will become yours as well.

If you recognize any of these telltale signs, don’t worry. You are not alone. And who knows — maybe someday there’ll be an app for that.

@blurb-inset refer, editors not:Perry White is the creaky managing editor of the Watertown Daily Times. Reach him at pwhite@wdt.net.

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