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JewishJournal.com

April 19, 2001

Bum Knees

http://www.jewishjournal.com/singles/article/bum_knees_20010420

The reason I am limping is because of a small man named Shen Hsu. That's not entirely accurate. I went to see Hsu because I was limping. He performed a variety of ancient Chinese medical practices on me, including acupuncture and a form of massage that could easily be mistaken for torture. I'm still limping. Now I'm limping a little differently, on what used to be my good side.

I am told, but have no way of verifying, that in ancient China, people only paid their doctors when they were in good health. I suggested this to Hsu and he threatened to repeat the therapy for free. I wrote the check. (When I mentioned this payment plan to my therapist, he shuddered in horror at the very thought of it and said, "So tell me again about your mother.")

The real reason I am limping is because I "got up funny." There are only a few kinds of injuries available to men over 40: getting up funny, sitting down funny, sleeping funny, and the catch-all, doing something funny. What happened? I don't know. I did something funny. I have a friend who hurt himself hiking. Hiking! That's walking up a hill. That's so pathetic, it's funny. Welcome to my world.

I long for a sports injury or a war wound. I wish I could say that I'm limping because of what I did on the court or the field. I wish I'd twisted something in a game. No such luck. I just Got Up Funny and now everything hurts. At least I wish I were limping with dignity. I'm going to have to start lying about it. I'll bet Hemingway never did something funny.

When I turned 40, I reluctantly accepted the fact that with each passing day I was getting closer to 60 and further from 20. That, sadly, will never change, but I had no idea how quickly I would join the ranks of the elderly. I can't hum the tune to any of the songs in the Top 10. I can't eat raw onions anymore, and I'm cutting down on spicy foods. I'm going to get my cholesterol checked. The end is near. You think I'm kidding? I'm now older than the oldest active professional athlete. I'm older than the guys they call the "Ageless Wonder." If life begins at 40, you can have it.

I don't look like a kid anymore, despite all that boyish charm to which I am desperately clinging. The other night at dinner with my friend Blair Sabol, I complained about a lingering hip injury for which I was getting deep fascia therapy. Blair said, "You know, at your age," and then the rest of it just sort of faded into the background.

At my age! I have never been "at my age." If anything, I've always been at an awkward age. Or maybe it was just a phase I was going through. I am not -- repeat, not -- at my age. How could I be at my age and have nothing to show for it? No millions in the bank, no Best Original Screenplay Oscar, no doting wife, no adorable tots. I have nothing to wear.

I get no satisfaction from the fact that everyone I know who's at my age has something wrong with him. Nothing life-threatening, but some nagging little injury, some ache or pain that requires chiropractic work, physical therapy, or a knee brace. My blood is now 22 percent Advil.

The signs have been there all along, but I didn't want to look. I have trouble sleeping sometimes. I've started making all kinds of ridiculous rules: Never drink from a glass in a club. Never eat in a restaurant with neon lights inside. Never go out with a girl who's got worse skin than yours. (That one, at least, makes sense.) As I get older, it seems there are more things I won't do. New experiences are getting harder to come by, and almost anything exciting that I try for the first time at my age is likely to end up with me hurting myself. Worse, I find myself agreeing more and more with my father. I can tell you, for a fact, that he ain't getting any hipper.

And so it has already begun, the long, slow march to the grave. Sadly, longevity runs in my family, which means I've got another 50 or 60 more years of this indignity to look forward to, the niggling injuries, the creeping infirmity, the costly, time-consuming rehabilitation therapies. I may not be getting any younger, but I think it'll be okay, as long as I keep getting older.

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