To grow old - and not have anyone or anything, let me know

As I sat down to make my resolutions for 2004 earlier this year (I always make three, usually manage to keep at least one), my thoughts once again converged on the sad fact that I will never see 50 again.

I have friends my own age who are far more accepting of their dwindling-days status than I seem to be.

Now, I'm not one of those pathetic guys trying to drive the sports car I can't really handle anymore, or cling to the hairstyle popular when I graduated from high school (can you say mid-career Beatles?) blowing in, or off in, the wind. I've accommodated change to some degree.

I date less.

I date (sometimes) in my own age group.

I quit smoking (a 1997 resolution I've generally kept).

I go to bed earlier.

I can count the times on one hand last year that I passed the two-glasses-of-wine mark and kept upending my glass.

And I actually listen (sometimes) to other people in between expounding my views to all and sundry.

I'm doing most of the right things. I just can't work up much enthusiasm for these changes necessitated by time's running away from me and the rest of the boomers.

I don't know about you, but I miss staying out in the clubs until 2 a.m. or so and still getting up at 7 or 8 a.m. to go find a game of hoop.

I miss the feeling of confidence in my body as I reach the summit of Baldy (Sun Valley). I might still ski - I'm just not nearly as sure I'm gonna reach the bottom intact anymore.

I no longer play pickup basketball. I was good at it. African-American guys often chose me before they took some of the other "brothers" standing around. But the last time I played, I was taken to school by a 5-foot-9-inch, 17-year-old white kid who hadn't even played for his high school team.

I've taken up golf, switched to doubles tennis, started swimming and embarking on long walks (What, me run?).

Last month, I joined a beginner's yoga class (I know, I know).

A kid called me "sir" on the bus the other day. Next, these polite, little punks will be trying to give me their seats. I'll fight 'em for the right to stand and be miserable.

A pretty, young friend of mine dropped by the other day to show me a piece of her writing.

She started smirking before she was all the way in the door.

"Is that Fatboy Slim you're listening to?" she asked.

I was puz-zled. I like the tall Brit's CDs OK, but his newest isn't nearly as good as Tosca's latest, or the Gotan Project's last release. But at least it wasn't Moby.

"Yeah," I said. "Why?"

"I just never pictured you listening to that kind of music," she said, perfect, unblemished skin glistening under the bright light I prefer nowadays indoors (the brighter the light, the less likely I'll walk into a wall).

I smiled and shrugged, although what I wanted to do would have had the feminist lobby up in arms.

"What did you expect, Lawrence Welk?" I spit out.

"Who's that?" she asked.

Now, this young lady graduated with honors from a famous university in Northern California nine years ago. She is the smartest young woman I've met in the last four years. But she is from another country: the Land of Youth.

On those rare, but still wonderfully occurring, days where I awake before the alarm goes off, ready to run and jump and frolic like the colt I once was, I'm going to resolve this year not to look in the mirror while I shave.

Why? Because that's the only way I can avoid seeing:

The broken nose (1991, a hoopster's elbow),

My first pair of bifocals,

The mang-led pinkie finger on the right hand (a mistimed rebound, 1987),

z The boxer's break on my left hand (my last bar fight, 1986), and

The sprinkle of gray hairs that are turning my lovely locks a color I don't remember requesting from the Big Guy (or Girl) upstairs.

This resolution isn't being made to avoid unseemly reality. It is simply a self-protective device.

On those rare days when the sap is still running, if I avoid the mirror, I can imagine (until about 2 in the afternoon when my motor starts running down) I am a sapling reaching for the intermittent sun, and not some battered old tree providing shade for the little bushes around me.

Freelance columnist Dennis Wilken can be reached via e-mail at needitor@

[[In-content Ad]]