Don’t let the old man in | Inquirer Opinion
Like It Is

Don’t let the old man in

/ 04:25 AM November 07, 2022

A hauntingly beautiful song written by Mikal Gilmore, derived from a movie called “The Mule” with Clint Eastwood about an old man who refused to be old. It’s at the heart of being old; not admitting it. At least in your mind, your body doesn’t give you the option. It ages whether you wish it, or not.

Don’t let the old man in

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I want to live me some more

Can’t leave it up to him

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He’s knocking on my door

And I knew all of my life

That someday it would end

Get up and go outside

Don’t let the old man in

Many moons I have lived

My body’s weathered and worn

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Ask yourself how old you’d be

If you didn’t know the day you were born

Try to love on your wife

And stay close to your friends

Toast each sundown with wine

Don’t let the old man in

When he rides up on his horse

And you feel that cold bitter wind

Look out your window and smile

Don’t let the old man in

Look out your window and smile

Don’t let the old man inAs I’ve long argued, the mind is you, your soul is there. The body is but the vehicle to carry it. If you think young, you’re young. Think positively, and you’ll have a future. Negativism leads to death. And death is an option best to avoid as long as possible. But not to be scared of.

There seems to be a strange aversion to talking about death, almost a taboo subject. Yet it’s the one thing that is coming to you with absolute certainty. Maybe 50 years from now, maybe tomorrow. It’s one of the few things you can’t plan around. Except for those unfortunate few with a mortal illness. Mind you, when you think about it, old age is a mortal illness in its own way. So death will come. Be not afraid.

I’ve never understood why the religious believe there’s a better life beyond, but are scared of death, of going to that better life. As someone who’s not religious, I live with the knowledge that once the heart stops, that’s it. I’ve no fear of it, I’d just rather it didn’t happen yet. But it will. At 83, I’ve very few years or months left. C’est la vie. I wish only it would be quick.

But enough of that. Let us talk about life. I’ve had a very full one, quite successful in my varied business career. Some exciting moments were motor racing (I almost lost my head once) and ocean sailing (stranded in the middle of it once, far from anywhere). A wife and a couple of kids succeeding in life who say they love me—and I believe them. I certainly love them.

I started life wanting to be a surgeon, but then I saw blood and changed my mind. Deciding grease-ingrained fingernails as an engineer was a better deal. I’ll never forget my first year at uni. We had to learn English again. I’d had enough of that, I wanted the nuts and bolts stuff, so I asked the professor, “Why English? I learnt that at school.” His answer, I quote exactly: “Mr. Wallace, IF, and I stress, IF you graduate and become an engineer, you’ll have to write reports.” Today, my fingernails are clean (well, relatively, my wife doesn’t think so). Today, I write reports, like this weekly column. But more intensive ones, too, to keep my mind active. I’m a great believer that you must exercise the mind daily. An idle mind is a dying mind.

You read endlessly about the need to exercise the body if you want to live long. That exercise can be just walking, but it must be something. But what’s too infrequently discussed is the exercise of your brain. Keeping the brain thinking, not sinking into a vegetative state, is even more essential to a healthy, long life. I spend two hours first thing every morning writing. And add to that during the day by remaining in business, and interacting with the business community. Then on to the country’s best-equipped workshop. I have developed a balance that suits me.

What I like about being old is that the uncertainty is gone. Will I fall in love? Will I have kids I can be proud of? Will I succeed in business? Will I climb the ladder? Will I have lifelong friends? Will I be healthy? Will I live a long time? You’ve answered the last one just by being able to ask it. Life is comfortable, you’re comfortable within yourself. There are no more doubts. You have nothing you need to strive for, nothing to prove to yourself, or others. If you want to do something, you can just do it.

That’s the nice thing about being old, you can do as you wish. Not be pressured by outside sources to conform to this or that. You want to live long, and happily.

Don’t let the old man in.

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TAGS: Like It Is, Old Age, Peter Wallace
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