Carl's Eyebrow

 Old Age

 Most of my life I have been looking for a certain place, a locale… maybe a milieu where I would be welcomed to speak and to think spontaneously, nourishing friendships that transformed  into fully realized community, rather than a plodding bus driver’s sort of life that froze awkwardly into a revolving Groundhog Day of bored greetings.

As it turned out, it was not a place I was looking for but an age.

Old age has become that place in life where in many respects, I fit.  And I enjoy it.  Not that this early idea I’d had of a friendship utopia has ever come to pass.  The completed vision itself still eludes me and may elude a final release date.  But I have made outreaches and created small settlements where the inhabitants and I are welcome and enjoy one another in a somewhat circumscribed way.  Which, as you age, suits the personality of old.  I haven’t either the energy nor the neural fortitude for any buddy trips, beer-addled nights out, nor intense philosophical inquiries nor romance.  Instead I Facebook interesting people in neatly digitalized encounters.  I meet to read and discuss poems with a regular crowd.   I enjoy activities with my wife and son, and spend a large share of time reading or writing.  I walk my dog around the neighborhood, now and then stopping to chat with a neighbor.  We all have to do a little upkeep on our homes and we discuss the ups and downs of that and exchange a bit of the very local (within a block) news.  And modern TV is a dream realized!  I can download my favorite series to watch at my pleasure, uncut by advertisers and without the interruption of unruly patrons at the theater.  Very few gripes to my life, you bet!  And it settles in every day around 3pm with a cold beer.

As for my earlier years, I re-create those early days as I make sales calls each morning in my ‘retirement’.  For this work you must be friendly, confident, keep the conversation quite direct, on track and goal-oriented, while giving the semblance of a relaxed but knowledgeable representative of a prominent, prosperous business.  You don’t waste their time with idle chatter.  You talk but listen more.  And an older voice with a bit of gravitas, a mature sense of humor and a knack or historical recollection for the right comeback is valuable.   People trust an older person more than they do a younger.   Any conversation lasting longer than 3 minutes usually goes south for me as my thoughts wander; my imagination opens its mouth.  I like having conversational fun too much.  So, all of this, plus the fact that I’m just missing many of the puzzle pieces to a successful chat makes the grit and slog of cold calling ideal.  For three minutes I’m a young Turk and in the game and I can obey life’s rules.

So currently, it’s my ‘new and improved’ youth in 3 minute stints for 3 hours a day, and then a lot of old age which is my New Age – as I’ve found old age to ‘exuberantly’suit my temperament.  Old people are rarely listened to, but I was rarely listened to when I was younger.  Besides, I’m often wrong, and this just keeps me from making a fool of myself.

Not much is required of old people.  We’re left to wander the grounds.  Old people are not required either to shine or to play at athletics.  Younger people don’t want answers or trouble from old people.  They certainly don’t expect miracles – at least, from me.  And they don’t ask where I work.  And they evidently feel they have a pretty good take on what I do by noting the grizzled chin hairs.  (Which I leave long primarily for that purpose – and because I’m lazy.)  Older people are even allowed to be eccentric or a bit silly.

Among ourselves the narrative has all been cherry picked for the best possible life’s story until we really get to know each other, and by then it doesn’t matter – either to me, or to them.  We laugh about all that.  And us older people are left alone to pursue our interests, while included by the relations.  Nobody asks me what I intend to do with my life, or if there is a special ‘somebody’?  And I can call a halt to most any conversation just by mentioning a death – and giving them the gimlet eye as I do so.

In short, when I was young I never realized that the best career I could have hoped for would to have been a has-been and to have rested on my laurels.  I’ve always loved the idea of a has-been.  To have been there!  To have accomplished!  And then, to be done with all of that.  Pure heaven!

(I feel Kevin Costner, especially, has pulled this role off very well in his movies.)

That’s how I see it.  And if I could have had my wish, it would have been to have been old sooner, while I still had all my physical abilities and mental capacity!

Unfortunately, I could never develop any laurel to rest upon.  So I’ve just had to age.

Carl working out

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