I had given little thought to growing old until recently at a kid’s sporting event my grown daughter turned to give me a helping hand down the bleachers. In that moment, she unintentionally shattered any delusions of immortality I might have held. Like everyone, I have little aches and pains from time to time, but other than needing a full-length mirror to see my toes and getting winded if I walk further than my recliner to the kitchen table, I felt reasonably fit and young for my age. That is – until my goody-good daughter interfered with my fantasy world. In a reversal of roles, the little girl I once carried up and down those same bleachers had become the protector of her old decrepit father. Of course, she had no ill-intent, but her kind, respectful gesture was an eye opener – a reality check for me.
I was polite and joked with her that the first sign of old age was reaching for the handrail on the stairs, but underneath, I was having none of it. My virility – my manhood – had been questioned! I rushed home moving faster than I have become accustomed, ignored my wife’s wise advice to rest in my recliner when I arrived, crawled up the stairs, and gasping for breath, pulled myself off my knees to the bathroom vanity to face the mirror. I was horrified! The blinders were gone. The rose-colored glasses shattered. The veil shielding my eyes from the mirror’s reality had been lifted. I was old, and all the king’s men and all the king’s horses couldn’t put young Jack together again. I wanted to cry but forgot why.
It took a day or two, but I forgave my daughter. Although I would have preferred to stay in the dark a bit longer, it felt good to know she was so loving and concerned. She could have just as easily pushed as offered her hand, but her mama taught her better. I thank her and her mama – old fat men do not fall gracefully. But, children – regardless of their good intentions – should be extra careful when exposing parents to the fact they are no longer young. Most parents are way over the hill before they are willing to accept aging as a reality, and then it is only after years of incontinence, losing a tooth or three in their cereal bowl, living in a house smelling of mothballs and cheese, and leaving the thermostat set at 90 degrees year-round that they realize they are neck deep in their golden years. Of course, there are parents who hold desperately to the illusion of youth – grandmothers who insist on dressing like their teen granddaughters, and grandfathers who wear sleeveless t-shirts with drooping lightning bolts tattooed on their upper arms. Those poor souls may never wake to reality, but for the rest of us there are reminders of our mortality all around us. For those of us with a thread of self-respect and dignity, it is paramount we recognize the signs of old age before someone, like our daughters, shock the hell out of us with pity, disguised as love, and an attitude of unsolicited “ah, the poor thing needs help.”
So, my advice to old decrepit hangers-on is take a deep breath and own up to the fact that over the years your children and life have simply worn you out. If we are lucky and live long enough, old age happens to all of us, but . . . no one wants to be blind-sided by it! Learn to recognize the many signs you have outlived your usefulness in a youth-oriented society. Be prepared, don’t let your declining years sneak up on you! Read the signs of advancing years printed below carefully and memorize them. If, like me, that is easier said than done, print the list and put it under your hat or in your shoe for safe keeping, but if you are afraid you won’t remember where you stashed the list, stick it on the refrigerator – even us old fogies remember where to find the refrigerator. Educate yourself to the signs of old age, and then celebrate you made it this far.
You know you are old. . . .
1. When you immediately reach for the handrail when climbing stairs;
2. When your gut hangs lower than your butt;
3. When you hear “booty call” and your first thought is adult diapers;
4. When it takes Preparation H to shrink the wrinkles under your eyes;
5. When you can remember using a rotary dial telephone;
6. When you are thankful for your remaining tooth;
7. When the perfect evening is being left alone;
8. When you remember buying two hamburgers, fries, and a Coke for a dollar at McDonalds and getting change;
9. When you see a pretty girl in a bikini and wonder if she’s wearing enough sunblock;
10. When people around you mistake patience for don’t give a damn;
11. When gas is a routine punctuation during conversations;
12. When something always hurts or smells;
13. When “getting lucky” means you slept through the night without getting up to go to the john;
14. When you can’t put two sentences back to back without forgetting what you want to say; and
15. When bending or squatting is likely to result in a pop followed by an unpleasant odor;
Remember, you know you are old when you finally have time to sit back and enjoy the little things in life that really matter like daughters watching out for you when you walk down bleachers. Old age is not a disease to be feared, so enjoy life – at least what you have left of it.
©Jack Linton, November 19, 2018