Age is just a number - mine's 70

As William Saroyan said: "I always knew everyone had to die. I just thought an exception would be made in my case."

This is the week of my 70th birthday.

I’m growing old. I get it.

Not that I need any more evidence, but it is impossible not to notice that the photos on the obituaries in the paper are starting to look more and more like me.

To be honest, I think about death a fair amount. It isn’t as scary as I expected. It’s been a good run. I parachuted out of a plane, skied in the Alps, cruised in a 30-foot sailboat through the Bermuda Triangle. Happily married 35 years, two great kids. There’s not much left on the bucket list.

Mostly you wonder how it is going to happen. Because it is going to be something. Heart attack? Stroke? Hit by bus? Some weird virus?

A friend of ours had a bout with cancer. A guy she was dating said, “You’re so lucky.”

“Why?” she said.

“Because you know what’s going to get you,” he said.

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The end is likely to be a surprise, I suppose. I was on BART once, in the tunnel under the Bay, and began to experience chest pains. And all I could think was, “Oh my God, it will be so embarrassing to have a heart attack on a crowded BART train.”

Turned out to be indigestion.

I feel pretty peppy. I still put on the running shoes and patter around the neighborhood regularly. I’ve run a 10k for the last six years — slower each time. They have photographers along the course and they send you sample shots of you running in case you want to order one.

There must have been six of them this year and in every single one I have both feet on the ground. Officially, to call it “running” I think you have to get at least one foot in the air.

I play golf, although I have given up on improving my best score. I suppose I could try to shoot my age, but don’t think I will be playing at 97.

At least once a round I completely lose a ball in the air. Don’t see it for a second. Gone. The eye doctor was checking me recently and said, “I see you have the beginning of a cataract.”

“WHAT?” I said.

She waved her hand dismissively. “Everybody gets cataracts,” she said. “It’s just when.”

Emotions seem closer to the surface. I am perfectly capable of getting choked up reading a 12-word text message from my kids. I am also irrationally cranky. The other day we bought the long, slender sticks of butter instead of the shorter, chubbier ones we usually get. I was annoyed every time I used the butter. No idea why.

Not working is cool because it means there are days when you can do whatever you want. But that can be a trap. I heard a Tom Hanks interview where he said as he got older, he subscribed to a simple credo.

“I make plans,” he said. “And I keep them.”

It’s a subtle point. There’s something in the older brain that pushes back on plans. The more you think about them, whatever you had planned starts to sound like it will be a lot of time and trouble. Maybe it is better to just skip it.

I’m trying not to skip it.

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Unexpectedly, I have a surplus of regrets. Again, it is a weird quirk of the brain. In the middle of the night I will think of something I said, or did, or didn’t do, and go over the whole thing in my mind. Thirty-some years ago I was introduced to a young, out-of-town sportswriter who — kind of famously — wore a coat and tie everywhere.

I made some dumb crack about him being a dandy. And I could tell it stung him. Why in the world did I say that? It doesn’t matter that he’s probably (hopefully) forgotten the whole thing. I still think about it and stew with regret.

My wife and I do that thing where we point at each other and snap our fingers, “You know, it’s that guy. That guy we met at that thing, that event. At that place, that restaurant.” Names and places are tricky.

My balance isn’t great. It is pretty exciting to pull on my pants in the morning, since I’ve vowed to totter on one foot to do it, without bracing against anything. Worse, if I fell, I’d have to get up.

A friend volunteers at a local non-profit. He said several people, all of a certain age, were sitting on the floor, doing something, when they were told they were needed in the next room.

“You should have seen us getting to our feet,” he said. “It took forever.”

On the other hand, just the other day I realized I have been parting my hair on the wrong side of my head my whole life.

So, still making progress.


Baseball invented a computer program to gather data so they could bang on a trash can.

You have to admit, baseball stands in a funny place — one foot in the Old School and the other in the New Age. The Astros’ sign-stealing scam pretty much captures the whole scenario perfectly.

As I wrote in this week’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat column, baseball has always been slow to accept new technology and ideas. And even when it does, there’s still a healthy helping of the 100-year roots of the game.

And don’t get us started on the “unwritten” rules of baseball. The funny thing is, baseball people say they don’t need to be written because everyone knows what they are.

Which is weird because there are beefs between teams about violating them every year. In fact, we already had a minor dustup last week at Spring Training. Would it surprise you to hear it was between the Giants and the Dodgers?

A slightly shorter version of the newsletter this week because I am being whisked away for my birthday. You can contact me at Twitter: @cwnevius. Comments and suggestions encouraged, criticism not so much. Thanks for reading.