Life goes on. The clock doesn’t stop. — Jimmy Breslin

People say, “I can’t believe I’m turning 75,” as if the Eternal Footman was already holding their coats and snickering. Well it is a landmark birthday. You can no longer call yourself young, middle-aged or even late-middle-aged. At best, you’re starting the fourth and probably last quarter of your life. What counts is how you handle it.

I turned 75 on March 6, and I’m not going to sugarcoat the event. The warning lights had already turned on. In March 2018, I was hiking in New Mexico when I felt my body tilting inexorably to the left. Slowly, slowly, slowly, I fell, eventually landing softly on my head, shades of the Marlon Brando death scene in The Godfather. I could have told you what would happen next. I went to the hospital, where they looked into my head and found nothing.

By mid-summer, though, I had a significant balance problem. My golf playing partners, Al Badger and Paul Levy, saw me dolting down the fairway at Farm Neck one day, told me I was “fading” and strongly suggested I ride the cart instead of walking. I complied and still do. I might as well ride. As Mark Twain supposedly said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”

I starting falling off my bike so often that I had to get rid of the thing. That hurt. Enter personal trainers Asil Cash at the Vineyard Y and Nesser Yaseen at the Y in Northampton, where I live in the off-season. They put me on balance and strength exercises, and I safely climbed a small mountain in New Mexico this March.

This was the turning point. My attitude about aging’s challenges has become, “Bring 'em on!” Then I awoke one Christmas morning with a ringing in my left ear. It was tinnitus. Most of the time I’m not aware of it. I developed glaucoma. “This is going to be a real test of me as a man,” I thought. Turns out all I have to do is take eyedrops twice a day. What a disappointment! The arthritis in my hands has reached the point where I can’t take notes (boo!) or write checks (yay!). I can’t remember names or words, either. They’re overrated.

Bottom line: I’m still alive. To paraphrase Casey Stengel, a lot of people my age are dead. My judgment has improved. Now that I’m wearing hearing aids, I don’t have to say “What?” so often. For that matter, there are advantages to turning 75. I can leave my shoes on in many airport security lines. And I can hit off the forward green tees in Farm Neck golf tournaments.

I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna. Denial and distraction are useful expedients, but they only go so far. There are things I can’t or won’t do any more: softball, squash and tennis among them. I have fond memories of sleeping without interruption for eight or nine hours. Napping must be a skill, because I’ve pretty much lost it. It’s hard to stave off reviewing the lost chances in my life and the hurtful things I’ve done, or wondering where I’ll be in, say, 25 years. Some of the time I feel like I’m holding back a wave.

That said, guilt is a wasted emotion. It’s self-involved. It dwells endlessly on the past. It often leads to nothing but stasis. Better to embrace the present. And adapt to change in this fast-moving world.

I’ve expanded my writing horizons by printing a pamphlet called The Greatness of King Lear. The language of this matchless play is always with me, and I use it from time to time. When a novice bridge partner feared she would let me down, I replied, “I will be the pattern of all patience.”

While I’ve written plenty about baseball, I plowed new ground by publishing a 6,000-word essay in celebrating the sesquicentennial of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the team that played coast to coast, never lost a game and made baseball famous. I now know that baseball yesterday matches up well with baseball today.

What finally unblocks the blues is socialization. It’s well established that chummy people live longer than loners. So I’ve gone on a tear, spending more time with family and calling up people I haven’t seen or heard from in years. Interaction beats acting out any time. I find writing the Gazette’s bridge column and reveling in this incomparable card game and its players to be endlessly rewarding. This is an Island with 16,000 year-round residents, three full-time bridge clubs and a fourth one in the summer. Just another reason why there’s no place like the Vineyard. Knowing I’ll learn something with virtually every outing, I can bury myself with playing, writing, teaching and making bridge friends.

Moreover, there’s always comfort in literature. Late in King Lear, the admirable Edgar, disguised as the mad beggar Tom, tells his father, the blinded Gloucester, that he mustn’t give up:

What, in ill thoughts again? Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither;
Ripeness is all. Come on.

He’s right. The bottom line is, I’m still alive at 75. Life goes on. The clock doesn’t stop.

Jim Kaplan lives in Oak Bluffs and Northampton. He can be reached at