“Old man take a look at my life,
I'm a lot like you”
Tonight, a confession. My mind is a place where confusion often reigns. In the grand scheme of things, I really know so little. Now, I was one of those good kids who did my homework, got good grades, was in Arista, on the honor roll, went to a good university and all that. But you know what? I don’t really know how anything works, do you? Do you appreciate what an impressive feat and what a sophisticated accomplishment it is when you enter your home, flip a switch and you instantly have light? If you think about it, it’s actually pretty cool. And I won’t even get into really complicated things like my LED TV, or Pop Rocks or this very laptop with which I am wasting your time. And if I’m somewhat puzzled and confused by such things - a well educated, pretty intelligent and successful adult (hold on just a second while I pause to pat myself on the back) what could possibly be going through the minds of the likes of Sarah Palin, Adam Sandler or any of the Bravo Real Housewives from any of the cities? (Yes, yet another Sarah Palin knock, but Chris Matthews gives me a dollar for every cheap shot I take at her whether it organically fits with the topic or not.) With the possible exception of the aforementioned group and the people behind Spike TV and Fox News, we are a thinking and questioning species. We don’t know the answers to many of life’s really important questions so we just make stuff up so as to keep ourselves from going crazy. Heck, that’s why we made up religion and gods of all sorts. Did God make us in His image or did we make Him in ours? (I just wanted to throw in something touchy and controversial to see if I could get anything going.) Today, I’m confused and thinking and asking about aging, and all of its benefits and consequences. Basically I’m wondering, when do I officially become an old man? I already pull my pants up too high and sport the fashionable hair-stylings of Fred Mertz. Is there a ceremony of some sort? Will there be some pre-ordained number of virgins waiting for me? And will they, hopefully, be of the female variety? (Okay, I know that reference has nothing to do with getting old, but a least it shows I’m not old yet.) Will I be handed a pair of Haband slacks with adjustable waist band? Will I begin thinking that, after all, socks and sandals do go pretty well together? When will I find 4:30 to be the perfect time for a hearty dinner? And most importantly, regarding the best thing that I have observed about getting older, when will I be able to do and say anything I want without fear of retaliation, retribution or rebuke. (I’m suddenly feeling particularly polysyllabic and alliterative.) When will behavior normally considered rude or less than thoughtful or even socially unacceptable, suddenly be considered engaging, cute or wise? Yes, I ask you - when can I become Betty White?
As I have just confused myself even more, perhaps some illustrations are in order. I was standing in line at a CVS. Since CVS, apparently, no longer feels it necessary to hire cashiers, it was quite a lengthy queue. The real hold up, however, wasn’t the number of people waiting but rather the fact that the elderly woman in the front of the line, capacious receipt in hand, was slowly going over that receipt, item by item, questioning the price of everything she had just purchased. And then she did it a second time just to be safe. I can see that it seems mean of me to even mention it doesn’t it? But if it was me up there instead, I would, no doubt, have gotten my CVS Gold Emblem Absolutely Divine Chocolate Chip Macadamia Cookies inserted into some part of me that you just can’t eat cookies with. But that was our love-able grandma up there, so what matter that my Ben and Jerry’s never made it home in solid form?
Another example - there’s the lady who regularly stands in front of my apartment building, with her bag of Wonder Bread, feeding all the pigeons of the neighborhood. Sure, it seems like a benign and harmless activity, but please come on up to my apartment and let me show you a few things. See the windows and see how our avian friends use them as a porta-potty. See the nest they build on top of my living room air conditioner and know that there is no finer smelling conditioned air, than that which has been filtered through a birds nest. And, perhaps, worst of all, come and be awakened regularly, at 5am, by the frightful sounds of nasty pigeon sex on my bedroom window sill just inches from my head. And should pigeons really be getting more enjoyment out of my bedroom than I do?
Finally, my favorite example comes from my wonderful father, who I miss so. He was always a kind man, thoughtful and considerate to others, but as he reached his golden years, an occasional, unfiltered comment would escape his lips - never mean-spirited and always in jest. One day at a family gathering we got to see a relative that had moved from our area many years ago and whom we hadn’t seen in a decade or so. When last we saw him he was quite thin. In the intervening years he had gained a significant amount of weight. We were all a little surprised but, of course, it’s not something that one would comment on, or so I thought. I greeted him, told him how nice it was to see him and how well he looked, and so it went with pretty much everyone else. Then he came over to see my father. They hugged and kissed on the cheek, as we Italian men do, stepped back and my Dad, still holding on to his hand firmly, smiled a big smile and heartily and enthusiastically asked, “What the Hell, happened to you?!”
That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I want. Give me that freedom.