The Green Mile

by Tom Greco

Life is funny. As the years go by, so many of the things our parents warned us about come true.

With all the shit going on in the world today, I often wonder if my dad had the same helpless, frustrated feelings I’m having as I look around at so many things that are so wrong. At least he was allowed to talk about them without the fear of being canceled.

Unfortunately, my dad died almost 40 years ago, so I never had the chance to ask how he dealt with things like unending foreign wars, corrupt politicians, inflation, social norms we have known all our lives being turned upside down, etc. Maybe he felt the way I do about the craziness of his time (Vietnam, Richard Nixon, etc.). I’ll never know.

He also never had the chance to say things like, “It sucks getting old” and its predictable response, “Better than the alternative!” I am three years older than my dad was when he died, and I hear AND say those things almost every day!

And it seems that I am starting to live out the first part of that equation pretty frequently these days. Seriously, where is the handbook that tells you that, once you hit 60, you’re required to have no less than one body part hurt every morning when you get out of bed? Remember the old game Operation, where you had to try and take the different bones out of the guy without getting shocked? Well, most days I’m THAT guy.

Last month, I looked in the mirror and realized that pretty soon I’ll need a wheelbarrow to carry my stomach around with me. So I decided to do something about it. The weather was nice, so I was going to start walking!

Walking bores the shit out of me. Sure, I can take along my music, but I always end up singing out loud, and if you heard my voice, you’d know I would probably get arrested by other walkers who were offended. Not wanting to go to jail or get dirty looks from those who walk to live (you know who they are), I had a brainstorm. I would take my dogs with me!

Both Lucy and Penny are around 70 pounds each, so there was no way I was going to be able to handle both. For my maiden journey, I decided to take Penny, who is a little calmer than Lucy.

We headed down to the park not far from my house (actually, in Nutley, there is a park not far from EVERY house) and we started off nice and slow. Penny is very well behaved. She’s very friendly and other dogs don’t bother her. We walked to the end of the park to our Township’s beautiful Area of Hope, a peaceful place that includes several benches surrounded by beautiful flowers and shrubbery with memorial plaques dedicated to loved ones who passed during the pandemic.

After a brief rest, we started back. The wheelbarrow belly wasn’t as cooperative on the return so we stopped off at a bench and watched the colorful fountain at what Nutley residents call the “Mudhole.” By now, it was dark and the trees in the park were lit up with decorative lights that made it look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Penny and I were back on our way.

As we got to the exit, I had to make a decision: Walk up the sidewalk that was about 20 yards to my left, the grass hill that was about 30 yards to my right or the stairs that were about 10 feet in front of me?

You know damn well whichever one I chose was going to be the wrong one, right?

Those damn stairs.

I picked the one place those beautiful lights weren’t.

And fell right on my 62-year-old ass.

Of course, I tried to jump right up and make sure that no one saw me. Luckily the only one watching was Penny and I’m pretty sure I heard her laughing under her breath. I guess the embarrassment and the adrenaline got me on my feet and up the hill to my house. I felt pretty lucky.

That is, until I tried to get out of bed the next day.

The alarm went off and I rolled over and started to get out of the bed when my lower back said, “Not so fast, fat ass.” I haven’t felt pain like that in years. The next few weeks were consumed by Tylenol, massages, acupuncture, heated blankets and anything else I could find to lessen the pain.

Thankfully, it eventually got better. It just had to heal. I was lucky this time. I mean, how many people my age fall like that, break their hip and are never the same again?

Needless to say, I haven’t been on a walk since.

And I hear Home Depot has a sale on wheelbarrows.

Of course it’s better than the alternative, but still.

It sucks getting old.

Want more? Check out the July 2023 issue of New Jersey Automotive!