Growing Old From Two Perspectives

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for September 13, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            During a recent rain, I rushed into the garage after a rare, brief excursion to the Post Office when my walking cane hydroplaned, and I found myself lying on my belly on the garage floor. Fortunately, I was not hurt, but unfortunately, I had to call my son-in-law to help me up.

            You can’t imagine how humiliated I felt, — especially since this has happened before. Not only does growing old have its pitfalls (as well as actual falls), but also those side effects cause you to feel helpless, foolish, shamed, worthless, clumsy, a few other choice things.

            These feelings inspired me to write a poem, into which I poured all my frustrations of growing old. The poem was good therapy, but it was not a good poem, because it sounded like an Ode to Self-Pity, written by a cry baby.

            So, instead of sharing a depressing, self-pitying ode to aging, I want to switch perspectives and look at this phase of life with a bit of humor. I was born 34 years after one turn-of-the-century (from the 19th to the 20th), and I have managed to live well beyond the next turn-of-the-century (from the 20th to the 21st), and in 82 years, I will see the next one; that will put me at 166 years old. Makes me feel like Methuselah just thinking about it! Perhaps the best antidote for growing old is a sense of humor.

            One way to think about aging from a humorous perspective is to paraphrase a popular American comedian who made everybody laugh by tossing out a whole string of “You know you’re a redneck when . . . ” statements. So let me toss out a series of “You know you’re old when . . . “ statements. Most of these were actually said to or about me.

            You know you’re getting old when your wife meets someone you knew long ago, and he says to her about you, “You mean that old codger is still living?”

            You know you’re getting old when one of your grown daughters tells you you’re older than her friend’s grandmother.

            I taught at Bellville High School in the late 1950’s; my wife taught at Faith Academy in Bellville about 20 years ago. As a teacher there, she met someone who had known me in 1957 and thought my wife was my daughter. You already knew you were getting old when that happened in the 1990’s!

            You know you’re getting old when you think the clothes you bought in 1975 are still in fashion.

            You know you’re getting old when the child of someone you taught in high school is now a grandmother with teenage grandchildren!

            You know you’re getting old when you still regard bubble lights for the Christmas tree as the newest fad.

            You know you’re getting old when you still call the cat you acquired during the time of Hurricane Rita, “Baby Cat,” and wonder why he no longer chases squirrels and follows them up to the top of the tree.

            You know you’re getting old when grown women hold the door open for you at the Post Office and offer to help you carry a package to your car.

            You know you’re getting old when your wife regularly lifts the garbage into the large trash can, because she’s afraid you’ll hurt yourself doing it.

            You know you’re getting old when taking an afternoon nap is one of the great delights of your day, and, at night, instead of having a martini or Manhattan, you drink your buttermilk and V8 cocktail.

            Even though every now and then I get down in the dumps about the negative aspects of aging, my theory is that if you can laugh a little about growing old and encounter life with a sense of humor, not taking yourself too seriously, laughter will cause you to stay young and live longer. At least it’ll make life more enjoyable!

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Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.

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