I first noticed it in Publix.
I wasn't getting carded for PowerBall tickets anymore. When I was 25, that made me indignant; at 35, I only hid a smile.
Then I noticed it at the playground. As the Slide Monster, chasing my 3-year-old twinosauruses through the mulch — after work, in office clothes and not-so-sensible shoes — it dawned on me. I am not getting any younger here.
Where's Ponce de León when I need him?
Then again, there's a remarkable lady in Clearwater who might say "bah" to that. She's Elsie Thompson, who at 113 is the oldest person in the Western Hemisphere. Even without a fountain of youth, she's been blessed with a long and full life. She still lives in the condo she has been in since the '70s, and her family visits from out of state regularly. Three caretakers help her, but the supercentenarian is still very much captain of her own ship.
Since flowery La Florida hasn't yet yielded a youth-preserving potion, my best hope lies with my grandparents. Scientists say that while no one can predict how long a specific person will live, the longest-lived among us tend to have long-lived grandparents (and the reverse). One of my grandfathers was probably in his 80s when he died, but his relationship with official documents was sketchy so we're not entirely sure. My grandmothers both made it to 84. Perhaps I can hope for the same, if I do a few more pushups and eat a little more mindfully — and avoid stepping in front of any moving buses.
Sometimes we'd circumnavigate the globe for the fountain of youth not for ourselves but for a loved one. As my colleague Patty Ryan writes in our First Person essay, watching a loved one age can be brutal. Patty's 13-year-old dog, Reggie, is facing multiple heath problems. They're treatable, maybe, but at what cost? Forget the money (as if anyone could); will fixing one problem keep him from doing what he loves most in life, chasing the ball?
My daughters won't be the twinosauruses forever. I don't know what kind of lives they'll lead, what dreams they'll aspire to. I hope I get to see. They don't share my genes, so I don't know what they can hope for, longevity-wise, either.
But I do know this: I don't want them to spend their lives chasing an imaginary fountain of youth.
I do want them to chase the ball, every day.
Deputy Floridian editor Kate Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8216.