|AARP card + a FREE insulated bag...wow!|
“All Hands On Deck” by Blue Orchid of Texas
I could tell right away when the sunlight hit the envelope that it was not your typical junk mail piece. I could see that as I turned it over in my hand and closed the mailbox door with my other, that this was a quality piece of messaging. I confess that at first glance I thought it was a piece from the American Automobile Association (AAA) as I get one or two offers to join per month from them. In fact, as much as I travel throughout the state of Texas I really should take them up on their kind offer of roadside assistance plans. But no, I continue to live life on the edge as I travel, awaiting for the potential automobile malfunction and then my having to stand by the side of the highway as a steady stream of attractive and sultry women pull over to offer me a lift to the next town. When I made it into the house and lightly tossed the small stack of mailbox goodies on the bar in the kitchen the piece caught my eye again. Examining it more closely as I tore it open – which I’m sure is pretty much what they wanted me to do – I noticed the AARP logo on the return area and not AAA. AARP? Why did that have a slightly familiar ring to it? Didn’t I see an AARP newsletter piece or a magazine from them in my Grandparent’s house some years ago?
The snappy looking letter inside with the attached high-quality membership card obviously captured my attention but I still didn’t know what this was all about. Right off though I did see that by joining whatever-this-was I would receive “your Insulated Travel Bag – FREE. By the way, I love it when copy writers make the word “free” boldfaced and all capital letters. Because if they didn’t I would know that there’s some kind of catch to this whole thing, some hidden agenda perhaps. But seeing the boldfaced lettering gave me an instant assurance and peace about the whole matter. As I read down a bit further to see what all I would get for ONLY $16, I saw that I would be supporting the nation’s largest non-profit organization that fights for the rights of all people over 50. As they stated, that of course is whether you are retired or just retired and working at Walmart as a greeter. Either way, I also enjoyed seeing their pledge that they preserver to be the outfit that “fights for the rights” of older Americans which immediately stirred my blood and reminded me of a rock and roll song I saw on MTV that said, “you’ve got to fight for your right to party”. But I suspect this is not so much about partying as it is about getting stuff you need to keep on keeping on. Of course for some it may be all about keeping the party going and having a seriously good time at it too.
Then it hit me. Why the hell would I be getting this invitation to join them when I’m only forty-eight and not fifty? And to top it off, people tell me I look like forty anyway. Can’t they see that? I even got asked for my ID card at a grocery store a few months ago precisely because I look so vibrant and youthful that I could easily be mistaken for a seventeen-year old boy trying to buy a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Maybe it’s like that scary accurate demographics research that they are using today, you know where you buy certain products and this secretive bunch of folks in top secret corporate bunkers feeds all your purchasing patterns into a supercomputer and then they know everything about you based on the kind of toothpaste you are buying. Oh hell, am I already buying old folks toothpaste? My deodorant, or socks or Scotch – what could it be? Well, anyway obviously this was just a glitch in the system somewhere because I’m of course nowhere near fifty years of age and I certainly don’t need a membership in the AARP organization for a long time yet. Right? No really, I mean it.
Ernest Hemingway once said that death crosses paths with a man at some point in his life, takes measure of him and then moves on. But the meeting is sealed and of course will eventually come around again. Trust me, I’m not trying to be dark or morbid in some way here but honestly it could be that my getting that horribly mistaken mailing was in some way a road sign for me. Maybe it was one just letting me know that old age is not only coming for me but is now speaking in a calm but clear voice to me and telling me that I’ll need to come up on deck soon. One of my friends, my editor in fact, mentioned in a conversation about her ailing parents that “our time is just about here and it’s time for us to be on the deck”. That stuck with me and I found that it was stirred again by the AARP invitation letter. It was an apt description and in the days since it was spoken I’ve thought more about it. If our lives are like sailing on a big sailboat then when we are born and young we are on the lower decks. Life is good but we only get glimpses of the majesty, mystery and power of the sea when we glance out of the port windows. Later we may find ourselves at the helm and our hands are wrapped around the wooden handle grips of the steering wheel. Maybe we are married or single, CEO’s or dishwashers or maybe just content to wander the galley but whatever we are doing, we are still not on deck. But that summons will come one day if we live long enough to hear it and I think that’s when we need to loosen our grip on the main wheel and let others take our place. It’s as it should be. We all will get the call to come up and when the call comes I think we should go. If we don’t – if we try to ignore the voice then our lives will only be an ever increasing struggle in the wheelhouse of life for control of a vessel that is better left to youth. I think that maybe not today but soon, my call to come up on deck is going to be spoken. While I could ignore it I don’t think that I will. It seems to me that the view is probably great from the top deck and the air will be fresh and clean. Sure you still have storms and the wind and rain may occasionally sting your skin but there has to be a freedom, a sweetness even in no longer gripping the wheel below.
I remember something my Dad said after the passing of the last of my Grandparents a few years ago. He said to my Mom, “now we are the old folks.” And although my own parents are still hopefully a few decades away from clearing the deck of life, I know that I will inevitably one day be one of the old folks too and yet I’m pretty sure that I’ll enjoy my own time on the deck as well. For those of you that are already there, I hope the journey may be a smooth one for you and not complicated too much by the mucking about by the younger crewmen below decks. I’ll be waiting for your call and for you to hand off the ropes to me one day as you prepare for your time to disembark. Even more I hope for peace for you and long days and nights to enjoy the view. And if you are ever at the AARP headquarters, please tell them the forty-something guy down in Texas says hello and I’ll see you soon enough.