A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why Do People Have to Get Old?

Well, if they didn't I wouldn't have a goodly portion of my furniture, since a number of pieces-- including the dining room table-- are heirlooms handed down from both mine and my wife's families. But I suspect at least part of it is so that kids can laugh at us, and we can laugh at ourselves.

I can no longer do, at 36, some of the things I could do at 26 or 16. I can't play outside in the blazing summer sun all day long-- I would probably die or at least pass out. I can't throw baseballs and footballs around for extended periods of time without feeling sore in the morning. I can't carry my golf bag around nine holes, much less 18... well, I probably could, but why would I want to, when someone has ingeniously built little carts for golf bags that I can pull behind me instead?

With age comes wisdom, they say-- and part of that wisdom is figuring out different, better, ways of doing things than you used when you were younger because you can no longer do some of what you could do when you were younger. Instead of trying to deadlift a large rock from point X to point Y, for example, I now use a lever, a cart, a wheelbarrow, or some other device... which may take slightly longer, but won't wrench my back clean out of whack.

But age also takes a bit of the shine off of adults for kids, and I think that's probably good... to a point. We went to Six Flags Great America (large theme park and water park all in one) last Friday and had a blast. My daughter was fearless at seven in a way I don't think I ever was-- she went on the Demon (big roller coaster with quite a few loops and tight turns) and loved it, and tried the American Eagle (big roller coaster with no loops but big drops and it's really fast) and didn't like it so much. But she tried it.

I tried the Demon and nearly threw up-- it used to be my favorite ride! Ah well. After we rode and Nicole wanted to go on it right away again, I had to say that I couldn't. No way. She was quite surprised... she had weathered the Demon better than her dad? An interesting look of pride and sympathy seemed to cross her face-- 'Cool, I rock' mixed with, 'Maybe being older and bigger isn't always better.'

Not to worry though-- I loved the American Eagle, and came off of that ride in much better shape than her. I think the upside down loops of the Demon got me, while the drops on the Eagle, where it feels like you might just fly out of your seat-- particularly if you're 7 and only weigh about 60 pounds-- got her.

As to Six Flags... I went with trepidation. I hadn't been there in over a decade, and I wasn't sure how my old body was going to do. But it was a lot of fun. Weather was good, the lines weren't too bad, and the water park-- which is new this year-- was a great afternoon diversion when it started to get a bit warm for standing in line for the rides. It was bigger than the last time I was there, too. Not just the water park area-- which probably added about 50% to the overall size of the place-- but the rest of the park as well.

The moments I most remember as a kid at Great America, we'd go as a family at least every other year or so, was being there at night. As the lights came on all over the park it transformed what was already a really cool place to be into something magical.

Still does. It actually gave me shivers on the long slow ride to the top of the Eagle's first big drop-- looking out over the twinkling lights, hearing the music on the warm summer air, watching the people down below, getting smaller and smaller. Of course, then your car reaches the top and plunges down to the bottom at about 60 miles per hour and you're hanging on for dear life... but man, that view is spectacular. Added bonus at night, all the rides are less crowded as many folks head home by 7 or 8 o'clock!

And it was comforting to realize that the magic I found in the place was still there, despite my balky stomach, despite my allergies, despite all the crap of daily life, and the worries of being not just an adult, but also a parent. It was magical to see all the lights, to feel the wind in my hair on the rides, to eat cotton candy and popcorn and get my picture taken with Daffy Duck.

But mostly it was magical watching my kids get to experience all that and more for the first time.
"Why Do People Have to Get Old?"

I may be getting older but I'm never old.
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