Marking an orbit

North Lamar donation center in Austin.

Another chapter opened during the last week of July.  I turned 65, causing the landscape of possibility to contract. An administrative disorder with no relief, this specific age-related impairment—status from age 65—changes options here in the land of eventual departure and also in the anticipated land of destination. Becoming officially old has both complicated and simplified the steps to realizing a dream. Simplified because there are fewer choices. Complicated because those that remain are not the better ones. Because I am old, the move now on hold has reduced expectations. The irrevocability of that fact made it huge and scary.

Through the early months of pandemic response, I kept telling myself that everything would be all right as long as I could travel before the middle of July. Documents I had secured and sent ahead to open a residency application were valid until July 19th.  My birthday and the changes it imposed were secondary worries. Had I made it south before time invalidated the documents, my birthday would have been largely a prompt to jump without delay into bureaucracy.

Even after the 19th, while explaining aloud that there simply was no way, I clung to the idea that something unexpected might allow travel before age closed more doors. A perfidious tickle from old devil hope. That vanity turned surprisingly painful when it sank in that I had to leave no later than the Thursday that was approaching in order to get in line when necessary offices opened on a Monday while I was still 64. No flights existed. No flights exist. The frontier remains closed.

Through that final pre-old Monday I was sad, much sadder than I could explain to other old men who were pressing for company. All I wanted to do was sit quietly alone while ambition changed shape.

The morning of my birthday I had an early appointment to donate blood, double units of red on the apheresis machine. The phlebotomist was cheerful and she stuck the needle well. In and out. Back in the car, I called ahead to order tacos and guacamole for pick-up. Reaching home, I stripped off the mask and ignored instruction to avoid caffeine, fixing a tall, delicious iced coffee. Really delicious. A rare instance of getting it not only right, but perfectly right. A red letter day. I ate tacos and guacamole, sipped coffee, read news. Overnight I had turned old, but my blood is still good. For someone, that makes a difference. This was my 68th donation.

Red cells depleted and belly full, I went down for a nap. When I woke hours later most of the sadness was gone. There are still traces of might-have-been, but only traces. Reduced expectations morphed during the afternoon into simple fact. When able to go, what I find will not be what I might have found the day before I became old. It will be what it is. Whatever it is will be new.