It happens to everybody, at least those of us who are fortunate to be gifted with a life free of serious illness or injury. At some point, we get old. But, just like in the Letters to the Editor in the old Penthouse Forums, I never thought that it would happen to me. However, even though I live in my own little solipsistic world, the real world continues to turn around me. Two things happened in the past few days to remind me just how old I am, and maybe just how out of touch with reality I’ve always been.
The first thing that rocked me to the core was the death of Dave Henderson. Unless you’re an obsessive-compulsive baseball fan with a long memory, you might not remember the man known as “Hendu” who patrolled the outfield for the Bash Brothers-era Oakland A’s. His lifetime stats were fairly ordinary—lifetime batting average of .258, 197 career home runs—but he was one of the key pieces on a team that should have been remembered as one of the great dynasties of all time. Hendu was the man responsible for moving Rickey Henderson along the basepaths so that Rickey could ultimately be driven in by Mark McGwire or Jose Canseco. He might have been the slowest centerfielder in the majors, but he always seemed to be in the right place to make the right play at the right time.
He also hit what many consider to be the most clutch homerun in postseason history. Watch:
That’s what Sport is supposed to be, right there. First of all—did Al Michaels call every important sporting event of the last forty years, or does it just seem like it? What a great call. Next, look at the elation on Henderson’s face. Look at the disgust on Donnie Moore’s. Most sportswriters this week, when memorializing Hendu, have glossed over the fact that Moore, the pitcher who gave up that long ball, ultimately may have committed suicide because of it. Friends and family say that he was just never the same after that moment. How many of us have a moment in our lives like Henderson’s—or like Moore’s, for that matter?
Henderson was drafted in the year I was born—1977. He died at the age of fifty-seven. How is that possible that he was fifty-seven? As far as I know, Dave Henderson is still immortalized in the 1988 Score Baseball Card Box Set, frozen forever at the age of thirty, a full eight years younger than I am now. But a funny thing happened between 1988 and now. It’s called time. The A’s of McGwire and Canseco are now just as distant a memory as the ’61 Yankees of Maris and Mantle were in 1988—exactly twenty-seven years ago. How is that possible?
My heroes weren’t supposed to age. They weren’t supposed to grow old and weak. They definitely, absolutely, positively, were never supposed to die. As I’ve grown older, I realize now that I’ve watched the careers of many athletes begin and end. When I was a kid, Don Mattingly had played baseball forever, and he was going to play baseball forever. It never occurred to me that someday, these men who I had frozen in time in the posters on the walls of my room—McGwire, Canseco, Dave Winfield, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan—that they’d someday be just as old and dead as Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and George Mikan and Y.A. Tittle (what? Y.A. Tittle isn’t dead?).
I loved Hendu. I loved Dave Parker, Carney Lansford, Walt Weiss, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch (who has also passed away), Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson—all of them. I knew them inside and out. I knew where they’d played their minor league ball, I knew their lifetime stats—everything. For some reason, a kid from Dublin, Ohio, was mesmerized by the swagger I saw from a team that played thousands of miles away from me. My friends and I bashed our forearms together when we played down at the park. I practiced so that, someday, I could have the same legendary stare that Dave Stewart had underneath his worn, curled-up brim of his cap from the mound.
Now one of them is dead. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does.
The second thing to gut punch me this week was this Junkyard Find on TTAC. I owned that car. Well, not that car—mine was a six-speed manual, not an automatic, and I didn’t have the tasteful “RX-8” stickers on the front fenders—but I bought a 2004 RX-8, brand-new off of the showroom floor at Jake Sweeney Mazda in Cincinnati. It was the first new car that I bought all by myself, with no parent co-signer required. I paid about $22,500 for a car that stickered for just north of $30k, thanks to some end-of-model-year rebates and some deep dealer discounts. I loved that car. I talked about it non-stop. I think it was slightly slower than a modern V6 Impala from zero-to-sixty, but, man, it could handle. It was perfectly balanced. It looked oh-so-JDM. I was twenty-six years old, I was managing the number two T-Mobile store in the whole country, and I had the world on a string, thanks to my dream car in my garage.
Oh, yes, it also blew up.
In 2008, I took it to the first autocross of the season for the Central Kentucky Region. I had just moved to Lexington from Cincinnati, and I was excited to meet some new friends. The RX-8 was the king of B Stock in those days, and some of the local MR2 Turbo and E36 M3 drivers were none too pleased to see a new entrant in their class. At the end of my first run, I put my foot down to accelerate toward the finish…and nothing happened. When I got back to my grid spot, I revved up the motor to see if something was wrong, and white smoke filled the air. I had blown a seal inside the motor, approximately two thousand miles short of the 50K powertrain warranty. Mazda picked up the car from the autocross, with the Hoosiers still on it, and replaced the engine under warranty. I swore that I’d be a Mazda man for life after that. I haven’t bought another Mazda since. Funny thing, life.
And now my dream car is showing up in junkyards with some regularity. It makes me sad. It makes me feel like that part of my life, that youthful exuberance, that version of me that existed before I had children and real bills and responsibilities—that part of me is somewhere in a junkyard, too. I’m coming up on my fortieth birthday soon. How did that happen?
It’s easy to see how the midlife crisis can play out. These things, these memories, these icons…they all fade. They all die. And, yes, someday, so must I. So it makes sense to want to go back to those easier, more innocent times of our youth, even our young adulthood.
But the secret lies somewhere in the experiences, doesn’t it? And you can never duplicate those days gone by, no matter how hard you might try. Even if you duplicate the circumstance, the perpsective is ultimately different. My experiences, my filters, and my careabouts are all much, much different as a thirty-eight year old father of two, and that’s a good thing. I’ll never be as excited with the purchase of any new car as I was the day that I left the lot in my Sunlight Silver RX-8. I’ll never care as deeply about a professional baseball team as I did about the Oakland A’s.
I do care greatly, however, about the U9 FC Kentucky boys’ soccer team and the U6 Winchester Soccer League Titans. I am proud to buckle my kids into the back seat of our Ford Flex every day. And that’s something that twenty-six-year-old Bark could never have understood.
Yes, I’m old, and yes, I’m getting older. Heroes die, posessions crumble. But I’m genuinely looking forward to learning the things that thirty-eight-year-old Bark could never understand.
Funny you write that about the Mazda RX8. It came out my sophomore year in college and I sold a boat load of them (4 in one day!) and Kia’s when I worked as a salesman at Don Kott (no more! :(. Coincidentally, the best boss I’ve ever had) to pay for my study abroad trip the following year. I made enough to blow about 10K on booze and women while “studying” in Europe. I loved that car. It sucked for a performance vehicle though.
Sucked?? Au contraire. It wasn’t fast in a straight line, but they’ve yet to make a car that was as easy to drive fast as the RX-8. I think it spoiled me.
True it was way better then a Miata. It never felt like a performance car though at least for me. Always felt something was missing.
I actually got pulled over in an RX-8 on a test drive. My boss saw and I thought I was going to get creamed but he was laughing his ass off.
I literally this week traded in my 2011 RX-8 for a Mazda 6. It was a bittersweet decision, but I didn’t want to own it off warranty. I feel like I should’ve waited one more year for a turbo-four in the 6, though. We’ll see. I’d really been holding out for the clearly-not-happening-NOW diesel 6 😉
I loved that RX-8, ever since I stepped in my first one at Laguna Seca. I know I’m going to miss it.
You will, but congrats on the 6!
I wish they’d bring back the Mazdaspeed6 or at least a Mazda 6 with a 6 speed transmission with north of 250 hp.
Getting old doesn’t get easier the older you get.
Thought of you when I read Hendu had passed away.
Me too… I almost called him about it.
That was beautiful, Mark.
I’ve been wondering just what the hell happened to my youth for a while now and I think that the truth to “staying young” is staying focused on the present. It’s easy to use old memories to draw up old, powerful emotions (be grateful, by the way that so many of your old memories are positive rather than negative) but too easy to allow those emotions to swallow you up. It’s good you’re living in the now.
I have heard it said that growing old isn’t for sissies, and I have come to the point of having first hand evidence to support that saying. Though I have to say that life has been much easier on me than it has been on many.
Still, what was easy when I was younger is often more difficult now. And some things, though I hate to admit it, that I used to do regularly, are either impossible, or it is a sign of wisdom, not cowardice, to let those things pass.
For example, as a recently divorced man around forty, I picked up a skateboard again, to have something to kill time and take my mind off of studying and work, when I was working full time and attending grad school and taking nine or twelve hours.
It was fun to return to the days of my youth again. But today, it would just be insanity. Although I am still considering another motorcycle.
But growing old is, as you noted, bittersweet. Knowledge, wisdom and awareness increase, but there is a price…but since it is inevitable, at least for as long as we live, it is best to enjoy it as much as possible.
As your children approach maturity you will also discover that if you are lucky, at least, your children will be able to benefit from the experiences you had to acquire the hard way. And you will be glad that the time passed has given you the experiences you can share with your children, in order to help them.
But from what I have seen and learned, the inexorable march of time becomes more and more clear as we age. But you seem to be showing the characteristics necessary to profit from, and enjoy the process. Being bitter about it helps no one, but seeing it in perspective is the cornerstone of both becoming wiser, and continuing to enjoy your life even as it changes.
Thanks for a nice insightful article about life.
Well said Mark .
Spot on too .
Wait’ll your dream cars _stop_ showing up in Junk Yards , then you’re really sad =8-) .
I’m young than you, but I had a similar moment last year. I went to the 25th anniversary event for the Bad Boys Pistons first championship. Chuck Daly passed a few years ago, but that didn’t hit me. None of the team members have passed, but you can tell it’s been twenty five years. Isaiah and John Salley aged better than the rest of the guys.
Just think, in 2016, it will be twenty five years since Jordan’s first title, and eighteen years since his last. There are people that will vote in the 2016 election that weren’t alive when Michael Jordan was a basketball player and not just a brand (minus the 2001-2003 Wizards years).
This pretty much hits home. I took my kids to see Star Wars last weekend and got to see the wonder in their eyes at getting to see a proper Star Wars movie. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks that I probably looked the same way at age 6 when my father took me to see the original in 1977. But the march of time was no more obvious than when Carrie Fisher walked onto the screen and my 8 year old said “Dad…that doesn’t look like Princess Leia”. No son…it doesn’t.
Fisher didn’t take good care of herself though. She looks WAY older than 59 in that movie, and that’s even with the Hollywood makeup and CGI enhancement.
She’s 59? Holy moly, I thought the controversy over her not aging well was overblown. Not anymore. My mother is 65, and people still ask me if she’s my sister. I’m just hoping it isn’t because I look unusually old.
Anyway, @Bark – join the club, and enjoy the membership. You still have your first prostate exam to look forward to…
” Anyway, @Bark – join the club, and enjoy the membership. You still have your first prostate exam to look forward to…”
I can tell you this isn’t a thing you look forward to .
I heard a saying that you know you’re getting old when your heroes start dying.
But you know you’ve GOTTEN old when your friends and family start dying.
…those are the years I’m not looking forward to.
I’ll take Al Michaels over Joe Buck any day. I don’t understand how he’s the new hotness in broadcasting. I’ve been to open enrollment seminars that are more exciting to listen to.
I had a 2004 Lightning Yellow RX8 6 speed Sport I bought used in 2006 with 10k on it (which I bought after working part time for three years through engineering school) that I still miss to this day. I ended up trading it against a new FRS when the dealer gave me a a trade number I couldn’t refuse, the engine was showing signs of failure with a few months left of warranty and I just couldn’t handle the gas mileage at $4.50 a gallon.
While the FRS is good, its no RX8. I’m still waiting for the next generation…
I was wondering how many people made the move from the RX-8 to the GT86. It was the closest next best thing.