An old cemetery in Boston. (Joel Achenbach/The Washington Post)

The main thing I don’t like about getting older is this whole business of “aging.” I’m fine with being older so long as I can feel 18 eternally, with commensurate infinitudes of aspirations and possibilities, and never a somber thought. Unfortunately, “aging” has a way of catching up with you, and one day you realize you don’t have quite as much pop on your fastball. You switch to the knuckler. Then that doesn’t work and you switch to the spitter.

Then you go to the doc and say, “I want whatever they’ve been giving A-Rod.”

My older friends say, “Getting old isn’t for wimps.” To which I reply: “Uh oh.” Crippled by a passing rhinovirus, flattened by hangnails, rattled to within an inch of my life by momentary ennui, I am not constitutionally built for discomfort, much less pain or infirmity. I come from hardy stock, a family of oaks and redwoods, but somehow wound up an orchid.

I’m perfectly healthy, and indeed enjoy the calm waters of middle age, but somewhere along the way I became conscious of the dark clouds of mortality, and the possibility that everything I do is the last thing I’ll do, or at least the last time I’ll do a particular thing. For example, the other day I was in my home town with my three kids and I thought this might be the last time we go to my home town and the last time we stop at Steak ‘n Shake for a shake. Does that not summon a tear to your eye?

Of course, we might go another 37 times to that same Steak ‘n Shake. You never know. Complicating matters is the fact that once you get past 50 you probably shouldn’t go to Steak ‘n Shake at all. You shouldn’t eat. Food will kill you. Each calorie consumed takes another second off your life. I knew a guy who believed in caloric restriction as a way of enhancing longevity. He almost never ate, hoping to live to the age of 120. Though I can think of better goals in life than becoming, someday, very old and hungry.

My tombstone will say, “Yes He Wanted the Fries With That.” You have to admire what the titans of American industry learned to do with the humble potato. Look at a French fry: implausibly golden, glistening with fat, coated in salt, and lovingly conceived by corporate food engineers based in a distant city and processed and cooked within narrowly prescribed parameters: Yum. You can’t eat just one. So good! Worth dying for, possibly. [Digressional thought: It’s weird that, like wheels on luggage, “supersized" fries were invented AFTER we put a man on the moon.]

The other day I was looking at the ocean and wondering where all the water comes from. This is the kind of thing I want to know before I die. Otherwise it’ll nag at me at the very end. Last conscious thought: You dumb-bunny, you forgot to find out the source of Earth’s water! “Comets” is, of course, the official answer. Supposedly lots of comets rained upon the primordial Earth and they were carrying lots of water. But do you believe that? Have you SEEN how big the ocean is? The other day at Cocoa Beach I was filled with awe at the sight of the ocean, which is perhaps hundreds of miles across and dozens of feet deep in certain areas. I rarely go so far from shore that I can’t touch bottom, but I have a sense of the scale of the thing, from watching the Discovery Channel.

They have taken submarines beneath the Arctic ice cap and surfaced at the North Pole. If I had a submarine under my command, I’d do that routinely. But here’s the thing about getting older: Suddenly you realize that you’ll probably NEVER command a submarine. The on-ramp to that life is way behind you. Indeed, you may never command anything more grandiose than a Honda Civic.

Mental note: Next time at the gas station I’m filling up with the high-test.