Recently I had a birthday and I’d like to take a moment to thank those readers who took the time to send me a note or a card, all expressing some very sincere cheap shots. The “I respect you, as I do all my elders” from the retired teacher was not the lowest blow I took, but one of the few that was printable. And “A wise man once said don’t count your years, make your years count.”
Doesn’t anybody buy nice birthday cards anymore? At what point did the publishers of birthday cards decide that they should convey a message sure to make you feel lower than the flat tire on a pickup truck in a country and western song? It’s like somewhere along the line Hallmark was a victim of a hostile takeover by the Don Rickles Corporation. And as insults go, they’ve become very expensive.
I had a lousy birthday, thank you. I received a cake with a glob of smoldering twigs on top, mainly because my buddy John Grant had a birthday only a few weeks before mine, depleting the world supply of wax. (Please, when it comes to delivering the cheap shots, leave it to a licensed professional.)
I never thought of myself as old until I was sitting on my break wall one evening at sunset, having a drink with a friend when she said, innocently enough, “It’s going to be chilly tonight.” To which I said, enthusiastically, “Yeah, it’ll be a good night for sleeping.”
Then I quickly jerked my head around to see who the dork was that said that. A good night for sleeping!?! Old people say things like that. People named Sully and Myrtle whose lives revolve around sweet corn say things like that. These are people who overuse the word my, as in “I gotta have my morning coffee” and “I gotta get my eight hours.”
It wasn’t that long ago that a good night for me was when I got home too late to do any sleeping. Now here I am at sunset looking forward to eight or nine hours of unconsciousness, like it might be a lot of fun.
I must admit, I kind of redeemed myself a few hours later and pulled myself out of the funk. This actually happened. I had smoked a turkey all day, but when the guests arrived around eight, the butterball still wasn’t done. So, the cocktail hour stretched to two and I was out by the shed, feeding hickory sticks into the smoker, when one of the women came by and asked, “Do you mind if I take a peek at the bird?”
“Hey c’mon! I hardly know you,” I said and I felt so wonderfully young and immature again. Hey, you can find new friends anywhere, even at the bus station. But how often do you get a chance to relive a moment of ill-spent youth?
As you might have guessed, I’ve reached an attitude plateau in my life, a crossroads of the currents of age. And I’m very frustrated, like a centipede with athlete’s foot or a beaver with gingivitis.
I’m definitely too old to be a smartass. Taking flying leaps at rolling doughnuts is a job for somebody younger, somebody who doesn’t have to ice his lower back every time he chases a Jehovah Witness down the driveway.
By definition, I’m not sure I’ve made it to curmudgeon yet. To be a real curmudgeon, you have to impersonate the late Andy Rooney, growling and jowling at anybody under 50 and everything that makes you irregular. Andy delivering his whiney rant on “60 Minutes” always looked like his shorts were way too tight.
I’m like this close to walking into a room and forgetting why I did so.
There was a time when I believed I’d take my life before I started a sentence with “Why, when I was your age, kid …” But, but I’m there now and I’ll tell ya, yeah, when I was your age kid, I knew the basic theory behind the baseball cap. It was invented as a practical head shield designed with the peak to be worn in the front to keep the sun out of your eyes and the bird droppings off your nose? Back then you only wore a ball cap backwards to make a catcher’s mask fit.
Why when I was your age, kid, I wore my clothes a little loose for comfort. But today you kids wear your clothes so baggy it looks like you’re trying to conceal gross and unsightly things, namely other kids. When we mooned people back then, it was intentional, not some unfortunate wardrobe malfunction.
And colours? You kids are wearing clothes so bright you’re giving your parents acid flashbacks. Sure we wore tie-dyed and psychedelic colours when I was a kid, but we also smoked dope so none of us actually noticed how ridiculous we looked.
Hip? You think you’re hip? You don’t know hip until you’re talking the benefits of titanium versus ceramic.
And, kid, do not sass me when I yell, “Hey! Get off my lawn!” So what if we’re both standing side by side buying Slurpees at 7-Eleven. I’m old. Show me some respect.
I wouldn’t say my advancing age has suddenly changed my perspective on kids, but I’m not even speaking to my niece and nephew. For years, they came to me with questions on history, which I answered eagerly, assuming their mother had told them I’d majored in the subject. Now I find out they knew the answers all along — they just wanted to hear from an eyewitness.