Some of my friends (and some are surprised to hear I have friends) have asked why I haven’t written anything for this column lately.
Well, as most may know, I do a great deal of serious thinking on my back porch in my old rocker and the cold spell we experienced earlier this year has kept me out of my rocking chair.
If I were president, I’d have to create a warm spot at the White House for my loose cane-back rocker or just not make any important decisions till spring.
Maybe that’s the problem in Washington now. Too many quick decisions and not enough rocking.
Either way, I have only recently begun to re-examine some of the serious issues of life. A question came up at the last Possum Brotherhood monthly meeting at the Telford Diner that caused me to seek that old rocker. Several of us around the monthly breakfast table are gray around the temple and throughout the beard, filled with life’s wisdom, or as the Bible says, the hoary head. Yet none of us had an answer for one brother’s observation after a recent trip to the big city.
He noted that with every visit to a drive-up window, be it fast food, bank or pharmacy, he was referred to as “honey,” “sweetie” or “darling.” I, too, had noticed this phenomenon and after some thought, related it to my advancing age. After all, I don’t remember the young ladies calling me that when I was 20.
Age is a mystery. It first approaches us as a much-desired item. When we are 4 and someone asks our age, we say, “I’m four and one half.” We are looking at getting older with glee. When we are 18, we want to be 21 and legal. But by the time we are facing 30, we want to be 29 and holding.
The big 5-0 is faced with black balloons and over-the-hill posters. By age 65, we no longer want to have birthdays for fear the cake candles will set off the fire sprinklers. I found at middle age I didn’t have to tell anyone my age. It began to show around my middle.
Some years ago I began to realize that I felt more pain in my corns than pleasure in sowing wild oats. Without any prior planning, I had seemingly stopped sucking in my gut and just allowed it to be released to the pull of gravity.
I realized that I was quickly becoming chronologically challenged, and as I had said in this space before, my barber had begun to clip more hair out of my ears and nose than off the top of my head.
I had discovered that getting older was not a question of staying healthy but of finding an illness I could live with. Arthritis was creeping up my spine and legs, and one day I woke up with pains that would never leave.
With me, it seems, when I had matured enough to get my head straight, my body fell apart. I had always heard that things improve with age, and if that is true, I should be approaching terrific.
I know with age comes wisdom. I think that’s why I’ve gained so much weight. The problem is that all that wisdom crowded itself out of the small space in my head and settled down around my waist.
So when you see an older man shaped like a pear, remember that is nothing but settling wisdom caused by a tight belt. Or you could see us as victims of gravity. Just be kind in your observations.
One of the members of the Possum Brotherhood reflected during our monthly meeting on his aging condition. He said, “I’ve had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement and both knees replaced. I had a prostate cancer scare last year about the same time they discovered I had diabetes.
“Now they tell me I have cataracts in both eyes so they have given me glasses that look like the ends of coke bottles. The doctor has put me on 17 different medicines whose side effects cause me to be dizzy and sometimes pass out. But thank goodness they haven’t taken away my driver’s license.”
We all left the meeting before he made it to his car.
So, what’s the deal with all of a sudden being called “honey” and “darling” by young women working these drive-up windows? After much thought and deep reflection, I believe I have the answer.
“Honey” means “harmless” in their dictionary. This revelation brings to mind a piece of advice my grandpa gave me years ago when he said, “Don’t worry about avoiding temptation, because as you get older it avoids you.”
Dan Kyte of Jonesborough
is a retired clinical social worker
and health care administrator.