Welcome, Swashbucklers, to the Realm of Legends and Lies

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman December 15, 2014 12:14

chrisFor a while I was worried that no one would enter our Friends and Neighbors Tales of Adventure contest.

After all, haven’t all the great adventures been taken?

We’ve not only discovered America but put it all on Google Maps. We’ve reached the North and South poles, conquered Everest, broken the sound barrier, plumbed the oceans’ depths, walked on the moon and rocketed a rover more than 35 million miles to Mars.

Look at any river, peak, desert or cave, and you’ll know it’s been rafted, climbed, crossed or spelunked by explorers who were a few years – or decades – shy of FAN’s demographic. What frontiers, I wondered, are left for us?

Plenty, it turns out. A better question: What is not an adventure here in the 21st Century?

Look on the Internet, and you’ll find “adventures” in awareness, square dancing, needlepoint, solitude, home brewing, parenting, grandparenting, decorating, learning, caring, Zumba and thousands more endeavors from popular to obscure. If you don’t go for the wholesome fare, you can key your way into sex, sin, porn and far more seamy adventures.

In a rotten mood? You can even pull up “Adventures in Depression.”

“Sadness can be almost pleasantly indulgent,” counsels an online guide to your trail of tears.

Madison Avenue, of course, spends billions trying to convince us that buying cars, clothes, perfume and toothpaste are adventures.

And we older folks? I’ve concluded we’re daredevils and swashbucklers, regularly going beyond our comfort zones into the realm of danger and legend. And there’s plenty of evidence.

First, seniors duel with kidney stones, clogged arteries, irritable bowels, enlarged prostates, arthritic hips, swollen ankles and many more fearsome biological foes that supposedly intrepid, courageous younger explorers wouldn’t dare tangle with.

Getting rid of my kidney stones back in July was a $46,000 (that’s what the hospital bills say) adventure in pain, medication, more pain, surgery, catheters, even more pain and finally, recovery. My 20-something kids saw me amid this chilling, suspenseful ordeal and believe me, they wanted no part of it.

Some advice to the young: Next time your aging uncle launches into the latest chapter of his prostate saga, sit up and pay attention – before you know it, his adventure may be yours.

Second, we seniors aren’t as sharp as we once were. We forget stuff, take wrong turns, mix up appointments and may confuse the doctor with the plumber – all of which can lead to surprising, unexpected exploits.

“When everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts,” says legendary mountaineer Yvon Chouinard.

For Chouinard, that might mean a loose piton in a blizzard on the face of Cerro Corcovado in the Andes. For you or me, it could be reporting to Roto-Rooter for a colonoscopy.

Third, the bar lowers as we age.

If you’re 20 or 30, running a marathon, biking 100 miles or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is a snap. At that age, it just takes discipline, training and obsession that borders on antisocial.

But that Ironman Triathlon you’ve finished? It’s more like another day at the office than a danger-laden excursion into the unknown.

If you’re 70 or 80, however, the same feats become age- or even death-defying adventures. And if you’re 90 or 100, walking a mile, climbing a few flights of stairs or swimming a couple of laps qualify you as a world-class endurance athlete worthy of front-page stories.

If a 25-year-old drives a Corvette to Nevada, wins a grand at the blackjack tables, then blows it all at the Moonlite Ranch, nobody cares. Well, maybe his wife cares.

But if a centenarian does the same thing, NBC, CNN and the AARP Bulletin swoop in. It’s a story for the ages – and the aged.

Fourth, after a few decades of practice, we seniors know how to spin a yarn. When fertilized by 40 years of retelling, fine-tuning and judicious embellishment, an interesting but seemingly minor episode from your youth can blossom into an epic worthy of Shackleton or Hillary.

And nobody’s going to hook up a polygraph when you begin telling your tale.

So what if the floodwaters back in ’56 didn’t quite come up to the windows of your Bel Air? And if that lightning bolt came a foot or two short of coursing up the shaft of your three iron as you launched that hole-in-one, well, who cares?

High entertainment and high adventure go hand in hand – and really, who’s going to parse the percentages of either as your great story unfolds.

Finally, we boomers and seniors have done some living.

Those of us on the far side of 50 or 60, by virtue of years alone, are ahead of our younger, fitter counterparts when it comes to close calls, tight scrapes, narrow escapes and overcoming all manner of hazards, hardships and horrors.

Thanks to our lofty vantage point, we’ve not only experienced thrills and chills but know how to tell about them. The 22 varied and fascinating entries in FAN’s adventure story contest – yes, my worries were unfounded – are convincing proof (see page 20).

And there’s even more good news: My kidney-stone story didn’t make the cut.

Chris Bateman is a 43-year journalist still working hard to retire. Contact him at chris@seniorfan.com.

Copyright © 2015 Friends and Neighbors Magazine
Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman December 15, 2014 12:14
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