I'm on the cusp of getting old. Really, truly old.
Next week I'll turn 59.
Next stop: 60.
Every March, I try to write about where I find myself at my birthday. What I'm feeling. What's important to me.
A problem now is, I seem to write that column every couple of months. Somebody keeps revving up the clock. I wrote about turning 58, and almost before the ink has dried on the newsprint, I find myself writing about turning 59.
That's a mystery of aging. Everything else slows down, such as your reaction time and your gait and your driving, but time becomes a high-velocity .44 bullet.
Here are a few other ruminations:
■ I can't identify any currently popular movie idols; they all look alike to me. They also all look 16 years old.
I've never seen most of the top-10 TV programs or heard the top-40 songs.
But whenever Jeopardy, which I do watch, has a category like, say, "Oldies Rock and Roll" — I'm pretty much undefeatable.
It's 2015 and I can't name one winner from this year's Grammy Awards, held just last month. Not one. And I actually watched the show.
But I still know who played lead guitar on Bob Seger's 1976 Live Bullet LP (Drew Abbott) and where it was recorded (Cobo Hall, Detroit) and who blew tenor sax (Alto Reed).
If I'm not careful, I find myself lecturing random hip-hop-loving whippersnappers about Don Felder's blistering guitar riffs on Already Gone: "Buddy, them Eagles, that was real music! Y'hear me? And pull those pants up!"
That's when a recording cues up in my memory, of my grandmother reminiscing about that slick young Roy Acuff belting out The Great Speckled Bird on the Opry.
"Mr. Acuff was the cat's pajamas!" I hear Granny say. "Not like this crash-banging Led Skynyrd or Lynyrd Hindenburg or whatever his name is you're melting your dad-gum mind with!"
I have become my own granny. Age is cruel.
■ At odd moments, I launch into long narrative monologues.
To my wife or son or Lowe's clerks or flooring contractors.
I simply hold forth. On stuff people don't care about.
I tell them about riding my pony, Duke, across a rainy graveyard in 1967. Or about the way my mom used to fry chicken and how much I loved her cooking. Or about the time — I was 11 or 12 — I thought the Rapture had taken place and I was only kid left on Earth. Or about waking up in the middle of wisdom-teeth surgery in the 1980s.
I always wondered why old people prattled on obliviously.
Maybe it's that at a certain stage of the game there's not as much to look forward to. Endoscopy, anyone? Retinal injections? Assisted living facility? So you muse on the past, try to make sense of it, sort through what mattered and what didn't.
Unfortunately, just as you arrive at a few insights and hone your best stories, you realize nobody else around you wants to be enlightened.
■ Paradoxically, although I find myself blathering on, unprompted and unregarded, I also find myself uninterested in general conversation.
My urges to hold forth happen about 10 percent of the time.
About 90 percent of the time, I abide within my private Cone of Silence. I'm happy in there. I neither talk nor prefer to be talked to.
I may have inherited this from my paternal grandfather, Fred Prather.
Nearly deaf, he wore a hearing aid. He rarely spoke.
When Granny launched into a spirited lecture on the evils of his tobacco-chewing, or an exposition of Revelation 21, or a fresh harangue against President Kennedy and the Democrats, he'd never argue.
Instead, he'd wait until she looked away, then reach behind his ear and — click.
Papa had his own Cone of Silence.
Granny could wax on. Papa would smile and nod and spit, and not hear a word.
Now I understand. I like the world quiet myself. Very quiet.
Cable TV news started the process for me, much as multiple concussions stoke dementia in ex-NFL players.
I'm a news junkie. At some point news networks became the un-news. They morphed from reporting actual events into programs made up of smug, irrational people screaming insults and yelling incoherently over the top of each other.
One day, worn to a frazzle by it, I pressed the mute button on the remote.
The heads were still turning purple and popping arteries. But they were silent. Ah. I'd discovered the Cone. I was hooked.
Unfortunately — no, this probably isn't wise or polite — I find myself progressively extending my Cone of Silence to neighbors, friends and loved ones.
I can't use a remote's mute button on them, and I don't wear a hearing aid, but I've found an internal switch in my skull that's equally effective.
People can talk to me as long as they like, in whatever tone or on whatever subject they prefer.
Pretty early in, I click that switch. The rattle goes silent.
I smile and nod — as I drift away, back to 1972 and a big platter of my mom's fried chicken.