I’ve been suspecting it for some time now. It’s been creeping up like a feral cat stalking a baby bird. It’s persistent, unrelenting, and pernicious.

I think I may be getting old.

The thought occurred to me following the Beltwide Cotton Conferences and a short vacation trip to Disney World with my daughter, son-in-law and wonderful grandsons the weekend after.

I’ve been attending the Beltwide since the mid-'70s and, as I’ve noted before, it’s a combination of a lot of work, over-indulgence, and reunion with folks I’ve known since I’ve been involved in agricultural reporting.

And I’ve begun to notice that folks I look forward to seeing every year seem to be getting more wrinkled, slower of pace and grayer of head. I suspect many of them look at me and wonder: “How does that old geezer still get around?” I sometimes wonder that myself.

The aging of Beltwide acquaintances came to my attention the day I left this year. Several of my long-time colleagues and I were sitting around one of the tables in the news room, an absolute wonderful perk provided by the National Cotton Council and Monsanto.

We were catching up on guy talk before we headed our separate ways — me and two others in the business. I will not use their names, but they know who they are. Back in the day, we would have discussed how our kids were doing in Little League or the band or where they were headed off to college. We might have mentioned a pending move or a new assignment. We were upwardly mobile young professionals.

This year we discussed, in horrifying detail, our latest surgical procedures. It was a short bout of one-upsmanship on who had the latest incision and the longest rehab. I may have gotten a few points with two recent rotator cuff repairs, but another colleague gets more points for having a metal rod inserted into his spine and the other has dibs on the latest joint to be replaced, a hip, if I recall correctly.

We compared pain medications. The one I am least fond of also caused the same itching discomfort for the back surgery recipient, but the hip replacement said those were like heavenly nectar.

We also allowed as to how we had to be cautious of any medications that might interfere with the other stuff we take for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and gout.

We complained about how much our feet hurt after just a few hours trekking around the expo floor and how much less time it took to explore New Orleans’ nightlife than it used to. In fact, after dinner each evening I looked forward to getting back to the hotel room and soaking my feet instead of walking through the Quarter looking for a good jazz joint or an excuse to drink a hurricane.

Even before I left home I made concessions to Father Time. I packed a bottle of Tums, a half-dozen packs of Alka-Seltzer and a warm long-sleeved tee shirt to keep away the chills in the hotel room.

The day after I left Beltwide, Pat and I flew to Orlando to meet our grandsons at Disney World. There is nothing like an eight-year old and a six-year old to remind you that your energy level has diminished a bit.

We rode rides that are not designed for the elderly, just for the pleasure of watching the boys scream with absolute delight. We stood in lines. We braved a cold snap and shivered (little boys apparently don’t get cold nearly as quickly as their grandparents do). We ate junk.

I think perhaps this age thing may be partly a state of mind. I did feel a sight older while sitting around complaining about my aches and pains than I did sitting next to my grandson on the Great Thunder Mountain Railroad as it plunged from one terrifying precipice to another. We laughed at danger.

And Pat and I fell exhausted into bed each night smiling and happy that we’d had the opportunity to witness magic.