All my life, up to today, I have looked younger than I am. The fact that my birthday is in November made it worse—I started in the first grade when I was five and began high school at thirteen. When I showed up for class the first time in the first grade, the other kids didn’t think I was old enough to be one of them. I started college at seventeen and was regularly taken to be a child prodigy. I graduated at twenty-one and immediately enlisted in the army for language school. Once again, the other troops treated me more like a kid brother than an equal.
And so it has been my whole life. These days at senior centers and gatherings for the retired, I am invariably taken to be barely qualified by age for admissibility when I am actually one of the oldest people present.
Despite that, my body is slowly failing as I age. I hurt my left arm many years ago in a fall on the ice. These days, it periodically aches. The surgeon botched my knee replacement surgery in 2015; I walk with a slight limp and can’t bend my knee very far. I suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), presumably an aftermath of the lung cancer which resulted in the removal of the upper lobe of my right lung, also in 2015. As a result, I suffer from nasal congestion (a runny nose) and regularly cough up mucus.
And, as much as I’d like to deny it, I’m not as sure on my feet as I used to be. Nor do I have the energy I once did. Worst of all, my memory regularly fails me, particularly when it comes to people’s names.
All that said, I go out of my way to stay healthy. I stick to a strict diet consisting mostly of vegetables and fruits. I get plenty of sleep. I adhere to a weight lifting routine of several hours every other day.
It’s working. Even though my body, including my brain, is slowing down, my writing is better than ever. I have believed since I was six that I was born to write. I’m currently subject to writer’s block as a result of my grieving over the loss of my partner, Su. But I know the problem is temporary.
So here I am, among the oldest men I know, yet regularly taken for twenty-plus years younger than I am. That’s all right. I’m used to it. It’s been going in since I was a child. And being mistaken for younger than you are ain’t all bad.