One of my favorite Bill Cosby lines: "You know you're getting old when you look in the bathroom mirror and say, 'Dad!?'"
I was out on a bicycle ride yesterday afternoon, something I do fairly often, especially now that the weather has gotten nicer. Along the way, I passed a group of kids, five or six of them, probably about 13 years old. As I passed, one of the boys yelled out, "Hi, Grandpa!"
I responded with my best Walter Brennan imitation, saying, "Hi, there, sonny!"
The interchange got me thinking. What the kids -- and everyone else I pass -- see is a balding older man on a bicycle. But is that how I see myself?
The first time I rode my bicycle to a specific destination was probably when I was in sixth grade. Certainly, I'd been riding it around our cul-de-sac neighborhood for years before that, but it was probably the spring of 1963 that I convinced my parents to let me ride to school instead of taking the bus. The trip was about a mile and, except for crossing Elmont Road, it was all back streets. (Even as I am writing this, I'm thinking that I had probably ridden to the library, a similar route to the school one, but much shorter, before this.)
It was also in sixth grade that I became friends with one of my classmates, Michael, who lived about as far from us as he could and still be in the same school. So it was not long after I started riding to school that I also started riding to his house. (Those of you reading this who are of my generation remember the days before parent-arranged play-dates; if you wanted to play with someone, you rang their doorbell and asked if they could come out and play.)
From that time on, through high school, my bicycle became my mode of transportation. (In addition to not arranging who we would play with and when, our parents rarely, if ever, drove us to someone else's house.) I was able to get around Elmont quite quickly, often making it from one friend's house to another's faster than people who were going by car.
Often I would just go out for a ride, my path determined by whether a traffic light was red or green when I got to it. Such rides often had me crossing paths with someone I knew, resulting in a conversation or visit that could not have been less planned.
So what am I saying with all this? Simply that when I am riding my bicycle these days, I do not picture myself as a 59-year old that others see. In my mind's eye, I'm still that ageless teenager... and always will be.