The feel of fall

TWICE IN THE past week, I’ve noticed a feel of fall, which is odd because it’s cool here most of the time. But this feel was different. It felt like fall, which is still more than a week away.

fallDuring the 15-plus years I lived in Houston, the arrival of fall was a huge deal because summer was such a misery, weather-wise. The arrival of fall here is less notable, but it’s sweet to feel it anyway. At times, some of our leaves actually change color. Not spectacularly like they do in Atlanta, but it’s a nice touch.

In Houston, the arrival of autumn almost invariably happened on the 21st to 23rd of September, a very narrow time span. I defined the debut of fall, officially or not, as the arrival of the first front that dropped the temp to 59 or less.

It did not matter if the temperature rose above 60 later in the day or even to 70, the mere fact that it hit the 50s at dawn was good enough for me. It was exhilarating.

Autumn of the year takes on an additional significance for those in the fall of their lives, and even more so for those of us in chill winter with snow-white heads.

Time moves on and, with luck, we’re still around in springtime.

There’s no guarantee.

The crack of dawn

YEARS AGO I would get out of bed between 5 and 6 a.m. Often I would have thought of something to write here on The Moon. But even if I didn’t, I would wake up early.

It’s said that you require less sleep as you age, 5 hours or so instead of 7 or 8. I was living the stereotype. But that changed a few months ago, and now I sleep in till 7 a.m. I don’t know why. The Savings Time switch didn’t help matters. I don’t want to rise in the dark.

It’s getting dimly light by 7. If I wake before then, say 6:30, I just lie there and listen to the sounds. Dogs, chickens, birds, the occasional burro.

They all wake with me, my morning amigos.

One thing I do not listen to is my child bride who makes absolutely no sound whatsoever while she sleeps. It’s quite strange, like I’m lying beside a corpse.

Since it’s May, the bedroom window is wide open. When we hit the hay around 10:30, it’s stuffy, so I turn on the tower fan, which is a very nice fan. It’s got a timer, and turns off around 2 a.m., which is when the atmosphere changes, starts to get cooler.

We first encountered a tower fan in a hotel eight or more years ago in Valle del Bravo where we overnighted during a detour driving to Mexico City. It’s a popular getaway spot for Mexico City residents. We’d never been there. We left the next day unimpressed.

The best thing we took away from Valle del Bravo was the memory of that tower fan. We finally bought one a year ago.

The view through our bedroom window is lovely at dawn, the plants and shadows combined with the animal sounds get the day off to a great start. And, of course, waking to a new day is desirable at my age, not guaranteed.

While my child bride sleeps like a corpse next to me, I don’t want her to have a real one next to her on any morning, but that will happen one day, I suppose.

But it did not happen today.

Instead of a corpse, she’ll have a croissant. And so will I.

An incurable affliction

I’M AN OLD MAN, and I don’t like it one bit.

New ImageThis phenomenon sneaks up on you like a rat snake. First, you feel the energy level slipping. I initially noticed that about a decade ago when I was in my mid-60s.

That’s when I quit mowing the yard in summertime.

Then your body begins to jig and jag in various ways, nothing that puts you out of commission (yet), but it’s noticeable. Your balance becomes unreliable. You feel this most on standing from a chair or bed.

What separates the sickness of aging from other afflictions like a bad cold, the flu or injuries from a motorcycle accident is that you can recover from a bad cold or flu and, with luck, from accident injuries of every sort.

But there is no recovering from getting old. There is no pill to take. You will not take an aspirin and feel better in the morning. It’s a downhill skid.

This is rather disturbing, that there is no cure for the first time in your life. But I have been fortunate. I can say there is no cure for the first time in my life because — knock on wood — I’ve never had anything incurable befall me. Others are not so lucky.

I have no vices, and I’m skinny svelte. These things work in my favor. I used to have vices. Smoking, drinking. But I quit smoking about 30 years ago, and I quit drinking on a March evening in Houston, 1996.

I started smoking at age 19 when I was in the Air Force. I smoked pipes like David Niven, cigars like Fidel Castro and cigarettes like millions of people. Oddly, it was not very difficult to stop smoking. I tapered off. No cold turkey for this boy. I recommend that method.

I started drinking in my mid-20s when I was married to my first wife. It was moderate at first, and I favored Southern Comfort, which is ghastly now that I think back on it. Syrupy swill.

After the first divorce at 26, I got serious about drinking, switching to alcohol for adults, and I remained serious about 25 years. I wasn’t a falling-down drunk nor a nasty one. But I did drink daily, every single, solitary day. Then I quit. Life improved immensely.

Oddly again, quitting was easy, easier than stopping smoking.

And I was not always skinny svelte either. I weighed about 55 pounds more than I do now until I was in my early 30s. Heftiness is bad for your health, and you’re less likely to reach an advanced age if you’re a meatball.

I weigh now what I weighed at age 21.

So, no smoking, no drinking and skinny svelte, all positive things if you don’t want to die prematurely, and I will not die prematurely.

It’s too late for that. I can only die via the normal schedule.

I’m hanging in there, but I don’t like it. And there’s no good solution. There is only one cure. And you know what that is.

Louisiana birthday

jumbo
The pot is much larger than it appears.

I STIRRED UP a nice pot of jambalaya today for my 74th birthday.

Years ago, in Mexico, I fixed jambalaya much more frequently. I rarely make it now, but special occasions call for special food. There will be no cake.

I also whip together a passable gumbo, but that’s even more labor-intensive. I may never do that again, but who knows? But I’m lazy.

I lived in New Orleans for 18 years if you don’t know. Both my first wife and my daughter were born in New Orleans, a place that forms odd people.

Time passes far more quickly as you age. Not just years, but weeks and months, even days. It’s a strange phenomenon. So, here I am at 74, just one year younger than my father when he died of a heart attack. In spite of getting annual physicals, there had been no indication of any heart issues for him.

So much for annual physicals.

Apart from a lower energy level, I had no age-related issues until I hit 73. That’s when I really started noticing. Now I feel it, but I still get around pretty good. There’s the occasional wobble.

Aside from anything major, probably the most noticeable change that comes with age is the loss of sure-footedness. This in spite of my doing more exercise than most people my age, plus the significant issue of possessing a child bride.

This afternoon, as I toss Tabasco hot sauce (from Avery Island, Louisiana) on my bowl of jambalaya, I’ll wonder if I’ll make it to 75 or, even more significantly, to 76, something my father did not manage to accomplish.

Felíz cumpleaños to me!*

* * * *

* And just like last year, my child bride forgot.