Rite of Passage
When we hear the phrase, “rite of passage,” we think of some young kid undergoing a life changing, crucible-like experience through which the boy becomes a man. But there’s another rite of passage that this youth-obsessed society of ours doesn’t want to face up to – the rite of growing old and the vulnerability this creates.
When we’re young, don’t we all think we’re invincible? Those of us from the Baby Boom “don’t trust anyone over 30” Generation never want to think we will grow old like our parents. And when you’re gay, old age is positively something that happens to, well, old fags, not you.
Then, one day you wake up, look in the mirror, and realize you’ve crossed that line too.
Tomorrow I turn 70.
Now I may be a child of another age but I’m still in shape, pretty healthy, look younger than my true age, on good weeks have more sex than a Manhattan bachelor, and even if it’s harder and harder to cover the gray with Just for Men, think, like many of us, that I’m still 35. My problem is so many of my peers, my contemporaries are falling apart around me.
Or worse, acting their age.
My petite sister, five years my junior, smoked all her life and, no longer able to walk more than a few yards without her legs giving out, finally went to a doctor who told her that circulation to her legs was virtually non-existent. So, a few years ago, I flew to Long Island to be with her and my brother-in-law as she underwent a four and a half hour Frankenstein operation to replace her aorta with Teflon.
You think she would have thrown her cigs down the toilet 8 years ago when her husband (the two of them were high school sweethearts) who also had smoked all his life, ended up with three heart attacks in just 24 hours and quadruple bypass surgery. But no.
Last spring, a spot was discovered on her right lung. She got zapped with radiation to eradicate or at least shrink it. Instead, a PET scan last month revealed TWO spots and Spot A had gotten bigger. Now she is facing major lung surgery next month. Being up in Pennsylvania for the summer with my obstinate ex at our house in the country, I plan to visit her and my brother-in-law later this month via Metro North and the Long Island Railroad..
I’ve been at the side of my ex through just about every one of his health crises. There have been quite a few of them but I dragged him to the doctors like he was my 80 year old boy. The most pressing one he now lives with is that he is as a potential victim of cardiac death. I got him a medic alert system since he lives alone – no way can we ever live together again – but he refused it.
The last time I saw George before this week was this past February when I went up to comfort him on the death of his dog Sammy who waited to die til I got up there to say my own goodbyes. ( My three act play about that experience, “Ode To a Dying Dog” is now making the rounds of gay producers both in Florida and both Coasts thanks to some good contacts.) When I looked at this tired old man, I searched for a glimmer of the hot Arab-American I fell in love with so long ago. Strangely he looks better today maybe because the weight of his dog dying is over though he still speaks about Sammy as if he were still alive. Meanwhile my own aging trio, two doxies and my terrier mutt keep us company.
As far as having partners in your hour of need, I went through sinus surgery in 2015, back surgery in 2016, and am now dealing with an inoperable major rotator cuff tear – alone.
Then suddenly I look on the bright side. I’ve had my share of fuck buddies of late, all old enough to be my younger brother or my son , a few traumatic romances, and currently a 42 year old lover at an age when most men – gay or str8 – have long exchanged reality for reminiscing. I touch on all of this next week in my min-series, “Loving.”
Yes, life is, indeed, of the moment.
And if I last long enough to pee in my pants, there will always be places like Tropics, Lauderdale’s piano bar- restaurant where May-December marriages are made every night over 2-for-1 drink specials and $17.99 prime beef dinners. I’ll just walk in there, age 92, my Depends on snugly, and my investment portfolio neatly tucked in the side pocket of my walker and I’ll have some humpy thirty or forty something wheeling me to my car in no time at all.
Like my mother said to me as she lay dying of a brain tumor in her apartment, surrounded by nurses and aides, “Isn’t this what you save money for?”