Age is a state of mind, if you don’t mind the state you’re in…
I wondered what I’d be like when I was old. Old was hard to imagine because I still felt like a kid, a hundred-fifty year old kid. The physical part of aging was understood. It hurt.
When contemplating my seventies and eighties, concern laid with my behavior. Was I destined to discuss prescription medication side effects alienating my friends who hadn’t died yet? Would I collect cats and wear t-shirts proclaiming “Metamucil rocks.”
I scrutinized my parents to clue me in to old… I mean mature behavior.
Dad hoarded junk in his garage and climbed on the roof to repair shingles and clean the gutters when my mother went for groceries. Mom collected information from reliable sources and dissected politicians in the spirit of Hannibal Lector. Thankfully, not in a literal sense because I scrounged a meal at least once a week.
In search of the best Bluegrass music and the holy grail of desserts, crème Brule, my parents fired up their RV and traveled the country like nomads. Hopefully, not naked nomads. Their latest cause, buy American, wasn’t going well.
Tactfully, I asked Mom, “Is Dad quirkier now that he’s old?”
“Your father’s titched in the head. I need a medal for putting up with him, a gold one, at least fourteen carat. I want to whack him for making annoying noises.”
Mom is a little lady who baked cherry chip cake on my birthday. The butter cream frosting slugged around in my arteries ready to strike, but that wasn’t intentional harm. I couldn’t imagine Mom smacking Dad around.
“Wait you’ll see.” Mom said.
Over coffee, I observed Dad draw out a yawn like he was on stage performing Shakespeare. Dad tinged the spoon in his coffee cup until I wanted to smack him too. I chanced a mark in my damned to Hell column because one shouldn’t even think of Dad smacking. I saw Mom’s point. Dad was titched.
When I asked Dad about Mom, he said, “Instead of asking me nicely to bring her little black book, your mother tells me to “fetch it man,” like I was a dog. And she’s always telling me how to drive. Your mother’s mean, but I still love her.”
Mom had a little black book?
Dad was on his way to becoming a Foley artist and driving Mom crazy with all the noises he made. Mom was bossy and slap happy. With Mom and Dad I never knew if I’d have to bail them out of jail for staging protests, assault, or for running naked through fields of daisies. My parents freaked me out.
I needed to scrutinize other mature people to get a sane view of destiny. I invited a few friends to lunch to ask about the effects of age on their parents’ behavior.
I asked, “Have your parents lost their minds in old age?” These friends understood I wasn’t talking a dementia type affliction.
“My parents are nuts, Mom still cross country skies despite hip replacement and Dad climbs scaffolding to help build a camp for kids.”
“My parents visit nursing homes every Sunday because someone has to take care of the old folks if the old folks’ kids live out of town. My parents are older than ninety percent of the people they visit.”
“After my mom recovered from her stroke, she resumed working with Girl Scouts, adolescent girls hopped up on drama and thin mints. She can’t be in her right mind.”
So that’s it? Old age was no different than any other age. You got out of it what you put into it. Old people, though, were crazy. We should aspire to be more like them.