Not how you rock it. Just ask Mick.
Last week, Ace Home Care spent two days crawling over my very steep pitched roof. The gutters, despite being covered, were choked with pine seeds. The house is half in, half out of rain forest, with tall firs and lots of Japanese maples, whose low branches offer a bridge to all kinds of small mammals to explore my roof.
The terrible Oregon fires were fanned by hurricane-force winds, which ripped hundreds of small branches off the lower trunks. All of us in the neighborhood had cleanup duty, not unlike those years I spent in the paths of hurricanes in Florida and North Carolina.
My immediate neighbors haven’t. Two of the nearby houses have the beginnings of a serious green moptop starting. Cute for photos, but seriously bad news for the roof.
It’s a lot like leaving your bed unmade and waiting for Mom to get so annoyed she makes it for you, and by the way, while you’re in there Mom, you might want to bring the vacuum, trash bags and Clorox wipes. Just saying.
As anyone who lives in this part of the country can attest, part of home ownership up here is roof maintenance.
The reason is simple. Moss grows, and when moss grows, moisture flourishes. It seeps under the shingles. In no time you have a serious problem.
My neighbors may well be renting.
Their roof is going to need a haircut. And with it, a brand new roof, or much more. However, if they’re renting, that’s not their problem. Except it is. It becomes everyone’s problem.
That’s what made me think of how renting teaches us about how we take care of ourselves, and what a few aging rockers have to teach us about that very thing.
Rockers? Yeah. Really old ones. And they aren’t in rocking chairs either.
Stay with me here.
As a homeowner, one of the first things I did was walk the perimeter of my property, identify deferred maintenance. I’d interviewed my real estate agent for what to expect in this part of the country, and the previous owners had kindly provided me with a long list of the providers they’d been using. As I write this, my yard crew is taking care of a few spindly trees which could crack and break in an ice storm.
I care because I own.
When I was a lot younger I treated my body like a hovel. My insides started to reflect that treatment. My intestines probably looked like the floor of a New York City taxi cab.
Lot of us look like that on the outside too, with solidified bubble gum and wet cigarette butts stuck to us.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a lot more invested in the skin suit that is the house I live in. While in many ways it really is a rental, so to speak, as Mother gets her -hopefully- well-used body back at some point, I am fully responsible for lifetime upkeep and maintenance.
If my neighbor is waiting for the absentee owner (in other words, Mom, or even better, the Invisible Man in the Sky) to take care of business, the shape that roof is in right now is a prime indication that the roof is already compromised and it’s going to require something major to fix it.
By that time, whatever’s in the attic or on the top floor may well be damaged, along with potential structural damage to this nice home. This is a lot like waiting for the aforementioned Invisible Man in the Sky to fix our plumbing after we’ve abused ourselves with lousy food, no exercise, too much alcohol and a host of prescription medicines while expecting the skin suit to work precisely as well as when we first climbed aboard at birth.
When the plumbing backs up, the grounds are full of weeds, the windows are so cracked and dirty you can’t see out and the weight-bearing walls are starting to sag probably isn’t the time to suddenly start giving a damn.
I think just described my body at 30, but I digress.
A few of my nurse and doctor buddies would rightly point out that we were given smarts enough to come up with the right medicines and procedures to keep ourselves healthy. That’s why praying for the Hand of God to intercede when we have done a shit job of owning our shit is a bit ludicrous when we have two hands of our own which are pretty damned capable.
Which of course is the whole point.
As you and I find out the hard way, when we live like hard rockers we also end up with the body that shows it. While some parts can be changed out later in life, the problem is that the waiting list for the really Big Ones (hearts, livers, lungs, kidneys) is getting longer.
I won’t even begin to address the issues of access to decent health care, how older folks are treated in general, and then the whole messy-ugly issue of health care for people of color, which gets into food deserts and a great deal more. Kindly, that’s another article. This is about being as mindful and committed as you and I possibly can be with what we have.
Graceful old houses get that way because they’re loved. The owner/renter/occupant(s) are willing to do what it takes to keep the house strong, able to withstand the ravages of time, and pretty on the outside with whatever it takes to increase curb appeal.
Look, my curb appeal retreated a long time ago, but at least my aged Victorian shutters have some of their charm still. Inside, things work remarkably well. With a few recent corrections, the plumbing’s back on track, and a nice coat of paint (hair color, okay, not ready for gray yet) perks things up a lot.
I stopped treating my body like a Big Hair Eighties band on tour. It’s right amazing what regular maintenance does…for anything.
I might note that a few of those Big Hair Eighties rockers didn’t do a particularly good job of maintenance:
To that, if I may contrast, legendary rocker Mick Jagger’s post-heart surgery routine at 75:
From the article:
And while he set the blue print for bad boy behavior back in the ’60s and ’70s, he’s since pulled back from his hard-partying ways and, like longtime bandmate Keith Richards, has dramatically cut back on alcohol. “It’s too debilitating to drink a lot, so I use other relaxation techniques . . . I sit on my own, calm down, take stock,” he once said. (author bolded)
When even famous walking zombie Keith Richards cuts back on booze, there is at least some hope.
Jagger still attracts kids in their twenties. His children could probably be grandparents to some of his sex partners. He doglegged years ago the way some of us do when we realize that trashing the house we inhabit like a careless renter isn’t perhaps the best long-term strategy.
Jagger is 75. Seventy-five. If you forgive my pointing this out I have yet to hear anybody refer to the man as ELDERLY.
Yet you and I get called elderly at 65. Why? Because we have grown moss, we leak, our plumbing backs up. We are walking masses of deferred maintenance. We look and act elderly, some of us beginning at thirty. You don’t have to be aged to be old.
From the article:
…his routine has always included running, cycling, and kickboxing. “I train five or six days a week, but I don’t go crazy,” Jagger once explained. “I alternate between gym work and dancing, then I do sprints, things like that. I’m training for stamina.” And in recent years, Jagger has expanded his workouts, honing his posture, balance, and flexibility by doing yoga and Pilates, as well as taking ballet lessons.
You could argue, and you’d be dead wrong, that Jagger is an anomaly.
In one sense he is, in that he does the work.
In another, he isn’t. He was given a body just like you and I were. The difference between Jagger and the rest of us isn’t just his rock star status or his money. It’s his work ethic.
If we put in that kind of effort, even a tiny bit of it, we’d also likely have the stamina. Jagger has been training for his eighties for decades. He’s almost there.
When you and I treat the house we inhabit like a vacation rental party house, trash the crap out of it for decades and then pray to the Holy Grail for intervention when our inevitable abuses come home to roost like the moss on my neighbor’s roof, you can hardly expect to be able to do more than limp to the porch and sit in your rocker while you wistfully watch Insta videos of Jagger rocking it on stage, putting in twelve miles of hard work.
You and I can treat the house we inhabit like rockers partying down in a rental cabin.
Or we treat the body like the magnificent machine that it is, and rock it well into late life, and kick that rocking chair right off the porch.
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