April 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

We Thought He Was Older

I turned 40.

This is not something I set out to do. No one asked me. It kind of just happened. In fact, a bunch of things kind of just happen to you when you get to 40.

Hazy memory—My memory is not gone. I’m at the age where I don’t totally forget things; I have vague recollections of things that come back to me as soon as I’m reminded. Like I’ll ask my wife why we’re doing a certain thing, and she’ll say, “Well, because of this,” and I’ll say, “Oh yeah; that’s right.” And I’m not remembering because of what she’s saying; her saying it is just triggering my own memories, and now I remember all of it, and she’s still talking for some reason.

Stretching—I also find that I have to stretch when I wake up in the morning. For a while. I’m thinking of getting one of those bed stretchers that they had in Sodom. I have to wake up a little earlier to stretch every day, when I’m still tired, so I fall back asleep stretching. And then when I wake up from that, I have to stretch differently. Whatever position I sleep in, my body says, “I guess this is the position we’re going to stand in from now on.” Yes, my body talks to itself. At least I think that’s what those noises are.

Random pains—If something hurts for more than a day, I think, “I guess this is always going to hurt now.” Then, when it goes away, I don’t think, “Huh. I guess I was wrong.” I just forget that it ever hurt. That’s the upside of the memory thing, I guess. Until my wife asks, “Hey, how is that thing that was hurting you?” And I say, “That’s right.”

Sleeping wrong—And yes, sometimes I hurt myself sleeping. And I have to tell people, “Oh, I slept wrong,” so they don’t just think that’s how I walk now. I slept just fine the first 30-something years of my life; all of a sudden now I’m making mistakes. I don’t even sleep that long. So sometimes I wake up and I think, “That hurts. Maybe if I go back to sleep, I’ll wake up feeling OK. Let’s roll the dice again.” But it doesn’t work. And now I have to turn my whole body to look at you for the next week. And the whole week, I have to think, “Is this always how it’s gonna be?”

“Sorry, I slept weird.”

“How weird did you sleep?”

“I don’t know; I thought it was pretty normal.”

It’s not like I fell asleep with the lower half of my body still in bed but my head on the floor behind my bed. (“I just followed the yarmulke, I guess.”)

If somebody says, “I slept wrong,” I always picture them falling asleep with one foot behind their head.

“I was doing yoga and I fell asleep. I don’t know what happened.”

“Did you try stretching?”

“I fell asleep stretching.”

Hairy surprises—I’m also at a point in my life where everyone has to, one at a time, let me know that my hair is turning gray. And they’re always surprised. Like, “Whoa! Your hair is turning gray!” In case I’ve forgotten. It’s always people younger than me, but there seems to be an increasing number of those every day. No one’s being born who’s older than me. But I’m so glad that I’m going gray instead of bald, because otherwise all these people would say, “Whoa! You’re really going bald!” But on the bright side I am getting hair in new and exciting places. I have hair on my shoulders now. The first time I saw that, I thought it had just fallen off my head. I tried to pick it up, and, “Ouch! Nope. That’s attached.” And I didn’t know whether to be relieved or horrified. I also recently, at the behest of my wife, had to buy a nose-hair trimmer, so I could have trimmer nose hairs I guess. It looked like a spider was trying to crawl out of my brain. I didn’t ask a shaver shaylah about that one, though. I don’t know if I was supposed to. But at least my facial hair isn’t finished growing in. I’ve been waiting for that since my bar mitzvah.

Back pain—obviously. I manage it, but everything I do, I wonder what it will do to my back. Putting on socks in the morning is impossible, too. I have to get both hands past my toes in a coordinated fashion. I have no idea how I do it. Half my daily stretching is just to be able to do that. They make slip-on shoes; why are there no slip-on socks? I can’t sit for too long either, because it will hurt my back. So about once every hour I get up and I hobble around on my bad knee so that my back will feel better.

But wait! There’s more!—I also make a verbal noise when I sit down or stand up. Not every time, though. I think just in front of people.—I’m always worried about keeping my weight reasonable. It takes an enormous amount of work and movement and quietly feeling guilty about everything I eat, all to just look slightly fat.

I’ve also just realized that I’m older than every horse. I’ve been older for a long time, I guess, but I don’t really notice age on horses that much. I can try to guess their age, but I’m usually way off.

But there are good things about turning 40, too. For one, I hear it’s a special number. The number 40 comes up a lot in the Torah and in Shas, to the point where some meforshim say that sometimes the number 40 is just shorthand for “a whole lot.” So that’s not disheartening.

Another great thing about turning 40 is that I understand that I’m finally going to be allowed to learn kabbalah. So stay tuned for some really weird articles coming up.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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