There's a ghost in my house and he is me. There's also a vampire, werewolf, zombie and Frankenstein's monster—and all of them are also me.
On Halloween night, this collection of terrors will shamble between haunted houses under pitch-black October skies, favouring the heel he hurt jogging four months ago that never seemed to heal, chasing a child down pumpkin-lit pathways towards waiting bowls of candy.
His daughter will run a gauntlet of cackling witches, giant spiders and oversized black cats, blissfully unaware that the real horror is growing old.
I call it The Oldening. And it's scary as hell.
Whistler is a young town, but time moves here the same as anywhere else. One day, if you're lucky, you'll find yourself on the downslope of the actuarial table with more days behind than ahead. There are only so many more winter storms and sunny summer days to look forward to.
Want to know what it's like to wake up middle aged? Turn back now if you frighten easily...
No haunted house ever creaked and groaned as much as I do getting out of bed in the morning. No zombie ever lurched as slowly down a hallway. No vampire's eyes were ever so blinded by the searing lights over the bathroom vanity. No Frankenstein's monster had so many lines and creases on its tired face. No werewolf was as dismayed by the sudden appearance of rogue hairs where there were no hairs before.
The Oldening is getting poked in the eye by something you can't see, only to find out that it's a rogue eyebrow bristle that grew freakishly long while you were avoiding looking at yourself too closely in the mirror. The Oldening is breaking down and buying a nose/ear hair trimmer because it turned out there was more than one rogue hair. Some of these hairs are grey, which for some horrible reason grow thicker and faster than other hairs.
The ghost is the most frightening apparition of all. He wanders the house looking for things but can't quite remember what those things are when he gets to the top of the stairs. He's starting to forget names and call people by the wrong ones.
He blames it on being tired but he also can't sleep as well as he used to, and gets up at least once a night to haunt the bathroom...
The Oldening is standing in front of the mirror and wondering what changed since the last time you gave yourself a once over—a new spot, a new mole, a new patch of something that you should probably get checked out. Your body betrays you and hurts you in countless ways. Muscles stiffen. Bones shrink. You have to work twice as hard to look half as good.
A lifetime ago, it took an entire winter of chugging beer and eating pasta to gain five pounds, which I could jiggle off in few weeks of exercise. Now I can pack that on in a single unhealthy holiday weekend, and it takes months to shed. I used to bike and jog through the forest for joy, but now I do it out of fear of elevated blood pressure, obesity-related illnesses and heart disease.
The reason there are so many different fad diets these days is because of all the middle-agers that have suddenly found themselves struggling with weight gain while also not feeling as good as they used to. The Oldening means you can't just eat food anymore, you have to read labels to make sure you're getting enough fibre and good fats. Sometimes you have to give up foods you've loved for 40 years or more because your body can no longer tolerate them.
The Oldening is terrifying.
You wake up in a cold sweat realizing that you're not saving enough for retirement...
Your eyes don't see as well in the dark. Your ears can't hear the TV over the sound of the dishwasher.
Your brain forgets things. Important things. You have to keep a calendar with you at all times.
You're not as brave as you used to be. Crashes on your bike or snowboard hurt more, it takes longer to get up, and if you're injured you'll heal more slowly—and you may never heal completely. The fear of accidents creeps in.
The Oldening is reading glasses, root canals, and prescriptions for ailments you'll have the rest of your days...
Aging can be done well—gracefully if you have a sense of humour about it and slowly if you have good genes. You can fight it by exercising more, challenging your brain, giving up things you love—and sometimes it might even feel like you're gaining back a bit of ground.
But only for a little, for the Oldening can never be stopped completely. Like a maniac in a slasher film, it will always catch up to you.
Happy Halloween. Go easy on the candy.