Aging Signs and Symptoms Musings of a Birthday Boy by Austin Isikhuemen

The claim that age is just a number is a fallacy. It is a false claim by those who either want to console themselves or those that want to deceive others and make them feel good in an alternate reality.  Join our Content Creation Academy

My birthday two days ago made me do a soul-searching reflection about this widely-held claim. Is age really just a number? Does each passing birthdate change anything in our firmament or does anything change for me as a result of sleeping on the 5th and waking up on the 6th of August every year? Or do I just go with the widely-held view that age is just a number?

Does that statistic mean anything at all? What does it matter if your President is a Paul Biya or an Emmanuel Macron?

I could interrogate this through biology. But biological processes undergo a gradual change. Who can tell the exact date when the very first pubic hair strand sprouted and whether it was the armpit type or the downstairs variant?

Can you tell with exactitude the day your wisdom tooth ended growing or the day your semen first had the potency to father a child because swimming seed joined the fluid? Such is the nature of many biological phenomena that date is difficult to attach with exactitude.

I abandon biology because I did not know, and cannot tell, when my height crossed 174 centimeters and reached 175.

I rather choose to use what I see and how I feel to gauge the signs of my aging. The vital symptoms of growing old, or rather, older, as those who are not comfortable with the naked truth would rather elegantly put it! What are our responses to societal changes and events as they unfold?

Are there things we used to see and enjoy that I now can only long for either because they are gone, due to my diminished capacity, the realization of their futility, obsolescence, or old-school label?

Have newer technologies simply made our yesterday’s look like child’s play and archaic? The gradualism of such changes makes it impossible for age change to make a huge diurnal difference overnight.

So the changes I will discuss here are not, and could not have been, the ones that occurred because 5th August changed to 6th two days ago. They are rather the gradual changes I see and feel on this planet and the journey called life, following many years of existence.

Many are subtle and infantile, some others, profound. Yet each a sign of change taking place, before our eyes as we grow older with each passing year. Do not ask me for the exact dates I noticed them but all I can say is that none was a birthday epiphany.

Some will make you laugh. That is intended. After all, laughter is therapeutic. And if you keep the laughter at bay, you will age quickly. Ha! you exclaim – how can that be when age is counted every twelve months of the Gregorian calendar?

The premature aging referenced here is the biological kind. That makes them give you kola nuts before your elders in error, thinking you are their senior. So I will build some laughter in for the reader’s rejuvenation even when his chronological clock ticks inexorably towards old age.

I have seen rice become commonplace from the rice mi jojo of Christmas that we used to look forward to. What we used to call ‘fry’ or ‘fly’ depending on which part of Ishan you hail from, suddenly changed to ‘stew’.

Waiting for rice to be served was the most agonizing wait of my childhood! This same rice that my son now takes for granted and sometimes refuse and opt for garri instead. What a change! I don old!

Most of the early buses I knew were kombi but we called them ‘cha cha bus’. They mostly had to be pushed to start and they were sometimes cranked with a crooked rod. I had thought that pushing them was the only way and every bus was the cha cha type.

That there are buses now in which you ease yourself as you travel along with climate control is a sign and wonder of how old I have got. When did Armels stop carrying mails from Uromi post office and buses stop carrying all their loads on their heads? I cannot tell but it surely was long ago.

Library was a big hall with huge book-filled shelves managed by meticulous men that bore the foreboding title of librarian. Stern, unforgiving with elephantine memory, keeping records of books they read for free or hardly read at all.

Now the library has become an obsolete behemoth and like a dinosaur, will have to change or die. This is because cyberspace has all the books written within it now and can be accessed through a keyboard. And if you think a keyboard is always a hardware, you’ve been left behind.

For I have seen it change to a virtual thing that pops up on electronic gadgets. Who says I am still young?

Time it was when we only heard of people called soldiers through the mouth of our teachers. They showed us photos in the Daily Times (our name for all newspapers) of men in khaki fatigues carrying long guns.

They told us to we had our own army but we hardly ever saw them till 1967 when Biafra soldiers and (Murtala’s boys later) invaded our town.

They were feared and respected and we were told they got a special injection that made them capable of going without food! That I no longer believe in that nonsense and I see them now eating corn and mounting roadblocks or helping collect rent means a lot of time has passed.

I have seen ‘couple’ change meaning from a word meaning ‘two’ to one now used for many. Our English teacher would cane you if you said ‘different than’. Is that not what is said now by the high and mighty, especially by Americans that we all imitate?

I even experienced the change of ‘route’ that sounded like ‘root’ to the one that sounded more like ‘raot’ that I vehemently refuse to use. Or ‘severally’ now misused to mean ‘several times’ whereas it really means ‘individually’. And I have seen people frown and look at you with pity if you spoke the old way despite the fact that that is the way the owners of the language pronounce and use it.

It is now okay once understood, so this puritanical predilection, refusing to leave the old way, is surely a sign of aging. Not so?

Back flicks as popularized by Obafemi Martins and Aghahowa was what I used as exercise and I could do that up to seven times at a go. Now I dare not even try. I am told orthopedic cases are more problematic as you grow older and I am not ready or able to do that test!

Why should I not eat all the stuff I used to crave as much as I can? Things I did not eat because I could not afford, now I can afford but should not eat! I am now told they are not good for my age. This is unfair. But no one asks my opinion because the doctors tell you the implication and leave you to your choices. That I choose the right way could be a sign that I am aging too.

That one bought a 250 watts sound system but never raise the volume beyond 12 of 50 max comes with age. So is driving a healthy 260 km/hr automobile at 80 max when 100 is allowed by law. Slowing down is probably an attempt to slow age down.

This may also explain why we start re-doing things that young people do just to feel less old school! But it is all make-believe. Sunsets and sunrise cannot be stopped or slowed, not even by a king or President.

I remember women used to cover their heads fully in church as prescribed in the holy book. These days? The wig is actually the cover now but tiny pieces of decorative stuff get stuck in to make the motions anyway.

That way, you do not shield the expensive ‘brazilian hair’ or ‘human hair’ that cost so much from admirers’ sight. Only the old like me find this new-fashioned way funny.

I used to know what shoe to expect on a well-cut suit. That dainty jacket atop a well-sewn trouser with sharp creases deserved a nice piece of lace-less or laced-up shoes.

The socks were expected to be conservative and not peep out in shouting colors. Not anymore. It is the older folks that know, or still respect, this drill. Red sneakers with purple laces are now worn on black suit and if you find this weird then you are wired the old way.

So is wearing deliberately torn denims whose ragged look makes the insane feel proud and chuckle in delirious ecstasy. Kanye West calls it fashion and the young agree with him. If you don’t, you are old and approaching departure lounge. When we were young, mad people took our clothes wore them torn, now people envy them and wear their fashion!

I have noticed I sometimes crave a few stuff I used to associate with old men. Kola nuts and bitter cola when driving long journeys. They say it keeps you alert and strong in many ways than one.

Do you find that herbs and herbal remedies begin to appeal to you, and you find yourself vigorously defending something you have not researched, hoping it will help your failing biology? That too is a symptom, my friend. This body was not designed to be the same after 50 years of use and abuse!

I could go on and on but that would be a further evidence of my ageing too! Only old people write and care to read, several paragraphs these days. And when there are no cartoons or color photos attached, forget it, my friend.

Most do not even get past the title. So if you managed to read to this last paragraph, and indeed know these used to be called that, then you have gone far in this race of ageing. You have got the symptoms, no matter how strongly you try to deny it. But you are not alone!

Benin City, 8th August 2021 – Austin Isikhuemen

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