March Madness

We traveled to Cedar Hill State Park to get away from March Madness, only to find ourselves surrounded by it. The park was crowded with campers of every sort, including Boy Scouts in tents, newbies in Class B’s, seasoned pros on electric scooters and first-timers. Having done this routine for more than eight years, we count ourselves among the seasoned pros–the people others turn to for advice and tips.

We arrived on Friday around 6 pm, giving us plenty of time to set up and take the dogs for a walk before settling in to watch the sun set over Joe Pool Lake. As usual, Chef Cliff grilled our Date Night steak and veggies, while Sous Chef Jon prepared the table for dining al fresco under the pavilion. We ended the evening with a late-night walk under starry skies.

Cliff headed to Hampshire for his work shift on Saturday morning while Jon stayed at Cloud 9 to tend the dogs and catch up on The New York Times. Cliff’s return brought Bloody Marys and brunch under the pavilion, followed by a nap. Our evening walk with the dogs turned into a meet-and-greet, as we chatted with Airstreamer Dan from Austin about his new Basecamp, and Airstreamer Lawrence about our constant occupation of site 124 (insider tip: schedule 6-8 weeks in advance). We also met newbies Su Chin and Russell, who shared with us their love of adventure despite adversity. After fireside cocktails and dinner, we took a long walk, and then met Patrick and Rich, visiting Dallas from the Austin area in their new Fifth Wheel. Our lively conversation came to an abrupt end when Duke regurgitated his supper all over Jon’s shirt.

Sunday found us pursuing our typical routines: watching “CBS Sunday Morning,” reading The New York Times, enjoying Bloody Marys and brunch, napping. At one point, “Goodbye to Love” started playing on our Pandora station. Released in 1972, it’s widely considered to be the first “power ballad” to feature a fuzz guitar solo. Tony Peluso, the guitarist, joined the Carpenters shortly thereafter and remained with the group as lead guitarist until Karen’s death, at 32, nine years later. Sadly, Peluso himself also died prematurely, in 2010, at age 60.

Of course, this prompted discussion about our own aging and dying. Jon will turn 59 in a few weeks, and the signs and symptoms of aging are not only undeniable but unavoidable.

He takes daily medications for gout and high cholesterol, and he can’t even read the pill bottles without his glasses. He can’t wear a swimsuit anymore. In fact, he’s only willing to swim in an unlit wading pool after dark. Sometime during the pandemic he lost his neck. He doesn’t know where it went, but he gained two extra chins, so it’s not a total loss.

He’s far more willing to get dressed in front of the dog, who has cataracts, than in front of the mirror.

He has mixed emotions about bacon: joy and gladness. He loves it so much, in fact, that he has stipulated in his advance directives that it must be his last meal. “If I’m being kept alive by a feeding tube, the bacon must be liquefied. If I can only have ice chips, I want frozen bacon bits.” You get the idea.

We both used to have sharp minds. Then we became best friends with Google. We Google everything now, which at least gives us the satisfaction of thinking we’re hipper, younger and more technologically savvy than we are. But all our gadgets have robbed us of our memory.

Besides Google, we blame our memory loss mostly on our smartphones. They’re smarter than we ever were. They’re smarter than anyone we know. Because they accesses the collective smarts of human history, they’re the smartest things in the universe.

We hate them. It’s been said that the older you get the wiser you become, but why would we want wisdom if we can’t remember anything?

Nora Ephron described aging as one big descent—the steady spiraling down of everything: body and mind, breasts and balls, dragging one’s self-respect behind them. You reach a point where everything can no longer be held up with surgical scaffolding and the drugs of denial. We’ve long surpassed that point. No investment of resources will stop the decline.

So we take long walks around the park, with great enthusiasm, hoping to slow the decline. But because we are equally enthusiastic about cocktails, the most we can hope for is to break even.

So far, getting older isn’t better—it’s fraught with peril. We’re fatter than ever. Because we lack the dexterity we once had, we have to keep sharp objects at hand so we can open anything sealed in plastic packaging. We still hate rap music, only now we hate it more than we ever did. We often repeat anecdotes and we’re grateful that most of our friends act as if they’re hearing them for the first time.

We wish I had something profound to say about aging but we don’t. However, after living for more than five decades, we have amassed the following bits of advice:

  • Be good to your colon and it will be good to you.
  • When in doubt, reboot.
  • Fresh vegetables are always the least expensive items on the grocery list, so splurge!
  • You can’t be disappointed if you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
  • Everything’s better with bacon.
  • You know you’re old when everything is a problem.