Getting Old Is Mandatory

Uncle Sid told me an old saying one time, which is, “Getting old is mandatory; growing up is optional.” Since experiencing some major surgery recently and getting ready to reach that age where you can receive Medicare, I’m starting to understand what he was talking about. After the surgery, I did lose some weight, but not enough for the doctor it seems. I went in for one of those after being cut-on checkups and he told me he was glad I had lost about 20 pounds, but needed to keep it off and lose some more. He wanted to know if I exercise. I must admit that I think about it often and have started walking every now and then around the track at the university. My walking program is more “every now” rather than “then” which is not what the doctor wants I think. However, he gave me a new water pill and I must say I am walking a lot more to preassigned areas if you know what I mean.

Lately, I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’m “looking good.” At first I was really pleased with that compliment, but now I’m starting to wonder what some of them really mean. You see, when I look in the mirror in the mornings I see my father in his later years. Inside, I still see myself as that person of years already gone. My inner-voice still sounds the same, but the outer one changes with the weather. My hair turned gray and loose at the same time. I keep telling folks that gray is a sign of wisdom, but they keep reminding me I’m going dumb by the hands full.

Each day I go to the mailbox there is another envelope reminding me to be checking out supplement insurance to Medicare. All these years I have said there would not be anything left for me in the government pocketbook when I reached that age to be on the porch in a rocking chair. For some reason the government has pushed the clock forward too fast and in a few months I’ll get a chance to “draw” what I said I would never get. Now I feel guilty, glad I made it and disappointed all at the same time. I’m sort of like the little boy who dropped his chewing gum in the chicken house. Totally confused. Rather than having to make decisions on health insurance and other old age commitments, I instead would like to be six years old again, as one author once pinned, “Thinking that everyone, including myself, will live forever, not knowing the concept of death. I want to be oblivious to the complications of life and be overly excited by the little things again.” But, that’s not the way life works, doggone it.

So, my plans are to work at keeping on “looking good.” I’ve had challenges before and looking good could be just a drop in the bucket for me rather than a kick of the bucket if I work at it. Maybe I can become oblivious to the complications of life in some ways. Avoid negative people, never attempt to fix stupid, and look out the front door when it comes to helping others as well as my community, instead of complaining about things 500 miles away that I can’t do anything about and a government city full of stupid you can’t fix.

I don’t want to be like the older lady from an old story Uncle Sid told me once and I’m sure you may have heard a dozen times, but works here for a good example. It seems she kept hearing a voice telling her she was going to live to be one hundred. Everywhere she went she kept hearing the voice say, “You will live to be one hundred.” She decided it must be God and if he had told her she was going to live to be one hundred she wanted to take advantage of the years. She got herself a facelift, a tummy tuck and a nose job.

The day she went for her last doctor’s appointment and they took off the bandages, she left there and walked out into the street, right into the path of a city bus. When she reached heaven and saw God for the first time she said, “You said I would live to be one hundred! You let a bus hit me.”

He looked at her and answered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you.”

Don’t look for a lot of physical change in me, but I do plan to “look good.” When that day comes for me, I sure want Him to recognize me. Now, where did I place that last Medicare envelope?


– Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at