Reflections on growing older

Owning home in city subdivision takes on new appeal as one turns 40

Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2001

I feel old today.

Not the kind of old I would feel on Sunday mornings when I was 25 and had spent 24 of the previous 36 hours drinking.

Not the kind of old I felt two days after climbing mountains when I was 29.

Not the kind of old I feel now after helping friends move boxes and furniture.

No, the kind of old I feel is the kind of old a man feels when he turns 40, as I do today.

Its an emotional and psychological old. Yes, gone are the days when I could at least fake being hip. Or hep, or whatever the young people call it these days.

Gone are the days when I can wear a ponytail without people feeling pity for this old man trying to be hep. Same thing goes for earrings.

Im even feeling the need to buy regular shoes to replace the flashy New Balance sneakers I always wear. But then I think, Why bother? In a few years, Ill feel the need to switch back to sensible shoes.

Also gone according to a co-worker is dating women in their 20s. Jay, there comes a time when a man just cant date a woman under 30 anymore, my co-worker said after I asked about a 24-year-old friend of hers.

This came as a shock to me. I knew plenty of men in their 40s dating women in their 20s. But then I realized they were all guys going through a midlife crisis.

Not that Im complaining about dating women in their 30s. Or even within arms-length of my age. But it does signal a paradigm shift for me.

Other evidence of this shift: Im thinking of buying a house. For you who own houses and have for years, youre thinking, Huh? Whats the big deal?

Ive never owned a house. Or had a mortgage. Heck, Ive never even bought a car except with cash.

A house is a big commitment. Not just the responsibility to the bank, but to my neighbors: I will have to mow the lawn.

We lived in Anchorage when I was a very young child, and we had very nice lawns, which my brother and I would mow, together, both pushing one mower. I sometimes drive by the two homes we lived in back in the 60s, and the lawns are still there, thriving. It makes me feel good, especially seeing the weeping willow my mom would serve us picnic lunches under on those endless summer days 35 years ago.

But we moved back out to the Bush when I was 9, where lawns were nonexistent, perhaps even against the law.

You were considered highfalutin if you stored your collection of broken snowmachines behind the house. Or brought your garbage to the dump instead of tossing it down the gully in the back yard.

The pressure of keeping a yard in full view of my neighbors is immense. Its not just about keeping it tidy, its about landscaping it. Should I hydroseed the lawn, or plant seed by hand? What about fertilizer? How should I trim it? Shrubs, perennials, some sort of sedge?

This is all a matter of importance, because the subdivision Im looking at is in a citys limits. And both cities in this area have (opening bars from Dragnet, please) zoning codes.

Which is fine with me. Ive lived in our fair area for four years now, in a very nice fourplex between the cities. The landlord and her husband are very nice; they keep the driveway plowed of snow, the grass and shrubbery cleared and my annoying neighbor in check.

But since Im out in the borough, I know that the wooded lot next door is one sale away from being a heavy equipment yard, a helicopter pad or a hog farm.

And apartment life is so nomadic. As soon as you get to know your neighbors, theyre moving on. I have been in my eight-apartment complex two years longer than anyone else here.

That makes the prospect of subdivision life all the more appealing. It would be great to get to know the neighbors, share lawn-care tips, back yard barbecues and having a brewski in each others driveways, talking about how to get the recalcitrant lawnmower going.

The prospect of having a garage also is very, very appealing. Space for a work bench, room to paint and build. A place to park the car, even.

Just think of it: No more plugging the car in at night, no more frozen seats at 25-below causing me to hit my head on the ceiling, or no more warming it up for 15-minutes. And no more scraping ice.

Ah, theres a thought to keep one feeling young for many birthdays to come.

Jay Barrett is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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