When I go to bed at night I often close my eyes and pretend that I’m back in the first grade. Not long ago I was slipping in and out of this wonderful semi-comatose condition when I suddenly remembered that my driver’s license was likely to expire in two days – on my birthday. This would be bad because the day after that, I had to pick up groceries at Walmart. 

I sat up in bed, fumbled around for a ballpoint pen and wrote “license” on the palm of my hand. Then I realized that the letters were so bad that I might not be able to read it in the morning. Knowing that a picture would be better, I drew a car’s steering wheel above that. But I couldn’t tell what that was either, so I got up, went downstairs and dug my license out of my wallet. My license expires in 2022. If I’m very lucky, the person who will then decide if I should still be driving when I’m 90 has never heard of The humble Farmer.

I started to ask if you ever think of the fun you could have as a first-grader, back in your one-room school. It had no running water. You can still see the long, low woodstove in front of you in the center of the floor. In season there were wet mittens on the floor all around it. And, if you looked over your shoulder, behind the girl with the fascinating long curls, were two doors in the west wall that led to the boys’ and girls’ privies. Then, because it’s time to do your numbers, you casually open your little desk, take out your smartphone and punch in 4 + 3.

What a hoot that would have been. You might also remember that years later you typed all night and well into the morning so you wouldn’t have to hand in your term paper a day late.

Could you have imagined that your grandchildren would simply push a button and see 10 pages flow out of a black box? Or that the little container of ink to print it would cost more than what your father earned in two weeks? Should a grandchild read the printed copy and decide to make a couple of stylistic changes, type them in, push the print button again, and it’s done.

You have probably read that those born today won’t experience a similar 80 years of progress over the next 80 years because technological change is exponential. We are assured by people who are paid to know these things that the next 80 years of progress will be more like 15,000 years of progress at today’s rate. If you are having trouble with your computer or smartphone today, remember that in only one more lifetime, these are the uncomplicated good old days.

Unfortunately, the same exponential formula might be applied to aging. A 15-year-old body is as good as it ever was and is indestructible. It can participate in a ski race in the afternoon and be rushed to a basketball court where it can then dart about for two more hours, still looking the same as it did 12 hours earlier.

Somewhere in the 30s or 40s a body starts to droop here and there and a pronounced sag appears beneath each eye, probably caused by the constant strain of transporting 15-year-old bodies from the ski slopes to basketball courts.

Anyone who doubts the alarming exponential effects of aging need only look at a grandparent. Nothing wears out a body quicker than realizing that one’s children know nothing about raising children and that everyone in their generation spends money like a medieval prince.

Those of us who are lucky enough to live a generation beyond that will tell you that when you reach a certain age, there will come a morning when you will get out of bed, reel back on your heels and immediately grab for the bureau to steady yourself – because suddenly, without any warning, something is strangely different.

In less time than it takes to read this, your mind thinks back to the day before and you wonder if it was something you did or didn’t eat. The meatloaf? The 50-cent pumpkin pie from Walmart? Did you forget to eat your supper pills?

Your spouse quickly sits up in bed, reads the alarm on your face and cries out, “What is it?”

You slowly shake your head, as if trying to free it from thick, sticky cobwebs, and say, “I don’t know. It’s all so strange – I feel good.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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