Posts Tagged ‘old age’

Getting Older, the Veneer Wears Thin for a Curmudgeon

August 27, 2016

Old Person2

Just as our bodies fail us, so do our minds and our personalities.  Our charm gets frayed, or takes a few hours off, or leaves us altogether.  Or the glitz which made the more determined aspects of our personalities less pointed and uncomfortable has fallen away, like paint from a splintery bench.  We’re isolated.  The difficulties of minor tasks get exhausting.  Small mishaps make us irritable.  Dropping things gets to be a chronic condition.  Our patience has worn thin, along with our skin and hair, finances and near everything else.  And what used to be a simple matter of bending over and picking the thing back up is now something more like snagging the prize with one of those toy scoops.  But the energy expenditure is enormous.  The small envelope you dropped weighs but several ounces, but getting yourself down and up can be a matter of lifting several hundred pounds.  Each new day, an hour or two in, and you begin to mutter that you are “too old for this!”

The younger bunch blaze ahead heedless.  The wisdom which has taken you so much time and effort to assemble is well…  “outdated”, as if you were a floppy disc.  Having to explain things to someone who is not interested would seem to be a fool’s errand. “Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.”  Young people will agree with this statement and repeat it – to the elderly.  The ironies of life just pile up, as you age.  It should be fodder for the evening news:  “Three irony pile-up on the Interstate this afternoon.”

And along with the humiliation of age comes the paranoia.  It isn’t uncommon for older people to turn on their caregivers, or accuse the helpful relative of stealing, when in truth it’s the elderlys’ faulty memory.  It’s not uncommon for a particularly willful and irascible spirit to expunge dutiful children, who have cared for them for years, from of their wills only to be infatuated by strangers, the ingratiating carpetbagger, a sympathetic acquaintance, neighbor, or give everything to some sketchy charity or balmy vision, or perhaps even some fellow they met in a bar.

Or the relations, friends and caregivers (even that ‘fellow in the bar’) might be taking advantage, being abusive or even stealing.   It’s not paranoia if it’s really happening!  The elderly can easily end resenting everybody and everything who had anything to do with them before they died.  Or they can die, befuddled, bruised, or kicked out into the snowy cold, but still loving and revering the villains who took them for a cleaning.  If your memory were just better, you could keep it all straight or sort it out.

What’s especially fun is arguing with your mate about what ‘actually happened’, when neither of you accurately remembers.  It can swallow the few remaining years.

Dying isn’t easy.  It’s a catastrophe.  There is no fix.  It’s the final loss of all control.  It’s the universe making a pie of you.  You’re gonna be something’s dinner, even if you’re of the progressive sort and are buried in burlap with mulch and an apple seed.  It’s humiliating.  And getting old is the humiliation express.  Next stop the hospital.  It’s life’s effort to completely wear you out, discharge that last bit of energy, spend the last ray of hope, nullify all desire, and prevent coherent thought and speech.  Your body will be in the hi-anxiety of total disarray with all systems failing, while your audience is scouring your slurred words and facial demeanor for those life lessons of wisdom, patience and universal love.  That priceless gift which only a life well lived can give.

Well, it may have to come from somewhere beyond the grave, or perhaps in some sleeping visitation.  Or maybe someone will just have to make this shit up!  Because getting old is like an avalanche and very hard to tip toe through with charm.  We are drowning people clutching for a life ring.  “Getting old is not for sissies,” Art Linkletter once said.

The good news is that, from my experience with loved ones and friends, most go out as the same person they lived from day to day.   If your wife doesn’t like your tie, she’ll probably still want to change it for the funeral.  If you were kind of mum in life, you’ll most likely die silently or with a whisper.  Or, if the emotionally volatile sort, expect lots of flower and tears – especially if big money is involved.  You’re choosing your last words and the ‘death spin’ now as you read this – and don’t even know it.  Ha, ha!

Okay.  Enough said.  Thanks for your time.  I realize that I can be a little grouchy.  (It’s the cancer… very painful.)  Just thank your lucky stars that I didn’t start talking about my last talk with the doctors!  It’s good of you to stop by.  Be seeing you.  Could you close that door firmly on your way out?  It has a tendency to swing back open.

(If you enjoyed this essay, you might enjoy these other offerings at http://www.magicbeanbooks.co   )

March 20, 2016

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

NEW PLAYS

March 9, 2012

OLLIE’S DAY OUT

OLLIE at the Bar.

OLLIE, 84, awakes one day to find his shoes wrapped and waiting under the Christmas tree.  He takes this as a ‘suggestion’, and wandering away from his assisted care facility finds himself in Fitzgeralds, an upscale hotel bar.  He immediately takes a shine to NIKI, who is waiting there for her boyfriend, PAUL to show.  Love struck, OLLIE decides to try and woo her. 

 While talking with OLLIE, NIKI lets it drop that she is pregnant.  OLLIE offers to marry her.  PAUL, the father, who arrives late, is hesitant to get married.  OLLIE’s ardor and commitment battle with PAUL’s youth and hesitance for the heart of NIKI.

To read the first 10 pages of this script, click on OLLIE’S DAY OUT under “Pages” to the right….     – Editor


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