Monday, September 25, 2006

Musings on Turning 38

The Wife and I had a night out in Grad School City this weekend. We ate at a restaurant that she said has 'been there forever,' which brought me up short, because I realized that I still think of it as 'the new place.' (It started around '95 or '96.) I first started grad school 16 years ago this month. 1990 was a more innocent time. George Bush was President, we were at war with Iraq, the deficit was exploding, a major housing bubble had just burst – truly, a different era.

My grandfather was a Detroit Tigers fan going as far back as the Ty Cobb era. He saw Babe Ruth hit his 600th home run at Tiger Stadium. The week I was born was the week the Tigers went to the World Series on the strength of Denny McLain's arm. In high school, I remember Grandpa watching the 1984 team over the summer, and sensing that it was something special. (Anyone remember Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell? Lance Parrish? Kirk Gibson?) For the last decade-plus of his life, Grandpa watched his Tigers play terrible, terrible baseball, and it pained him. (Actually, he mostly listened, on WJR. Most summer afternoons, he'd set up a card table and folding chair under a tree by his driveway, put the radio on it, and listen. He had his priorities straight.) This weekend the Tigers clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 1987. They're not my team, but I'll be pulling for them anyway. This one's for you, Grandpa.

Actually, to toast him properly would require either a Faygo or a Vernor's.

Grandpa is one of the reasons I don't fear aging all that much. He had probably the clearest sense of priorities of anyone I've known, which let him enjoy getting older well into his seventies. He didn't deny the physical fact of aging; he just didn't care all that much. (The seemingly dichotomous regimen of daily walks and daily naps pretty much captures it. Get your exercise, and get out of the house, but don't be compulsive about it.) What mattered, mattered, and the rest wasn't worth getting upset about. I admire that.

I also realized this weekend that by the time my Mom was the age I am now, she and Dad had divorced. Every memory I have of the house I grew up in occurred before she was the age I am now.

A wonderful professor I had in college died last month. The obit listed his age. Counting backwards, he was younger when I took his classes than I am now.

It works the other way, too. The Girl is starting to count ('one, two, fee...'), and The Boy is already almost at my shoulders (and I'm over six feet, so that's saying something). TB had his first town soccer league event this weekend. Even though both milestones are totally normal, they still both occasion bursts of parental pride. Parents take pride in the mundane.

Even when the mundane doesn't quite work. The Boy thinks 'pointment' is a word, as in “I need a pointment.” I don't know why it struck me funny, but it did.

Grosse Pointe Blank pretty much captured my attitude toward reunions, but sometimes I think it would be helpful to see how some of my classmates have aged. Last year I had a sort of chance to see how some grad school colleagues had aged when I saw them at my advisor's funeral. It's actually good for the mental health. I'm always disappointed when I see myself in the mirror and don't look 26 anymore; it's good to know that the folks I knew at 26 don't look 26 anymore, either. I don't have a monopoly on getting older.

The upside to working at a college with a very senior faculty is that, even at 38, I still get to be the Young Turk. This is not a small thing. Now I'm only 21 years below the faculty median!

Off to the gym...