Photo-2 New friends often ask about the name Young Isaac. When I say that "Young" refers to Brooks Young, the agency's founder back in the 1970s, they sometimes say, "Oh, I thought it referred to you as a young person."

They seem disappointed to see my gray hair.

If there were truth in advertising, we'd call the firm Aging Isaac and someday Wise Old Isaac or Older Than The Hills and Twice As Dusty Isaac. But pride prohibits. And I enjoy honoring the founder. (He's why I'm the "re-founder.")

Aging is everywhere. It's all around me and within me.

If you are still young, read on. This might be an advanced view of what is eventually coming your way.

Welcome to the Middle Ages
So here I am, at 47, and I realize that I'm middle aged. To me, "middle-aged" means that I'm equidistant from birth and death. That's if I live to 94. Here's hoping I do. I rather enjoy being alive. (I don't remember the alternative.)

A more generous definition of middle age considers only the adult years. That is, if I've been an adult for only 20 years (since, say 27), then I've lived only a quarter or a third of my adult life. So I'm not yet middle aged. Now go back to sleep, dear.

Can't Fight Facts
Anyway, the facts are what they are. Soon, if not already, I'll be closer to death than birth. That inspires several thoughts:

  1. I know when my birthday is, so that's easy to celebrate. But if my deathday is closer than my birthday, perhaps I should start celebrating (or solemnly observing) that day instead. Problem is: I don't know which day it is. And you wouldn't want to come to my deathday party anyway.
  2. Since I'm closer to death, then there is — oddly — less to fear. As my teacher Danny Maseng says, "If life is temporary, how can pain (or fear) be permanent?" I find that middle age offers greater freedom to be myself.
  3. Younger people worry that I might be concerned about my advancing age. I'm not. I see my age as a fact. You can call me "old" or "young" — but that won't change what I am. Shoot, you can call me "tall" or "short" and I'm still 5'10" — though I guess I'm going to start shrinking soon.
  4. To paraphrase Garrison Keillor: when Mozart was my age, he'd already been dead 12 years. That's humbling.

What's Different, Now That I'm Old

Aging has been an odd process. Because I've been lucky (perhaps partly because my lifestyle is relatively healthy), the physical realities have been modest. I'm grateful for that.

So aging has been an exercise in relativity. It's as if I've watched the rest of the world get younger. Here's what it looks like:

  • Once upon a time, everyone else was older than I was. At that time, I longed to be older. Now I realize that every age has its perks. Be happy.
  • When I turned 21, I remember seeing new drivers behind the wheel in the next car and I thought, "Wait a minute! That kid is on a joy ride. He's way too young to drive a car. He can't be any older than 14."
  • In my mid-20s, I recall seeing high school graduates who appeared to be no older than 14. "That ain't right," I thought.
  • Later, all college graduates were clearly 14.
  • Then, more and more police officers were all younger than I. Police were such authority figures. How could they suddenly be 14 years old?
  • Now, it's the clergy. I mean really: Dear Abby recommends a visit to the clergy for problems like mine — but the rabbi is 14. Sure there's been tremendous study, a diploma, an ordination, and great common sense. But c'mon: what does he or she know about the problems of old people like me? (To be sure, I still have one rabbi who's older than I am. But only three years older. That means that my next rabbi is going to be 14.)

The Mrs. Feels My Pain
This morning, Mrs. Alisa Isaac observed: "Recently I thought that I had developed some extraordinary power of empathy for people who are at mid-life. I really seem to understand them and appreciate their challenges and newfound wisdom. Then, suddenly, I realized that I don't have some new power of empathy. It's fundamental sympathy: I'm middle aged, too."

What To Do?
A friend says that whenever age comes up in a conversation, she adds 20
years to hers. Though she is 45, she says, "I'm 65." Others always say,
"Wow. You look great." She knows it's pathetic, but she loves hearing those words.

Well, happy deathday to you.

Next: observing the moment of midlife.