I thought these observations by Kevin Collins on his birthday were definitely worth reprinting. Of course, I know I am prejudiced but I think it is terrific
“Old” …Some observations on my birthday.
Does anyone else get emails from people with lists saying “You know you’re old when…”? The worst are the ones featuring cartoons of a little old lady named Maxine. She wears big hats, loud clothes and always has a cocktail in her hands. Quite sure the character is based off a woman I saw at the last Tall Boys concert. For the uninitiated they tend to start out with “Maxine says…” and of course go on to talk about the perils of aging.
As funny as colostomy bags, insulin and erectile dysfunction unquestionably are, these cartoons about getting old are getting old. Please stop sending them to me. If you do this I promise to never post a quiz on Facebook asking “what kind of luggage are you?”
It occurred to me the other day that I’ve lived herein Ajijic, Lake Chapala 20 years now. The hard part to accept is that when I moved to Ajijic people use to say “Oh you’re so young to be here. I have great grandchildren your age”. Now when speaking to octogenarians they use phrases like “People our age”. Our age? We’re peers now? How old do you think I am? Did we sit up worrying about the Lindbergh baby together? Geeez.
I use to feel insulted by this but the truth is I have become old. Not cartoon old like accidently putting the cat in the microwave or defecating in public but I undoubtedly meld better now. Okay I did once pee myself in Super Lake but it was a natural reaction to their pricing of the Haagen Dazs ice cream bars. (Totally unrelated to being old.)
My experience isn’t unique, I know that, but I want to talk about the epiphany I had. Email cartoons don’t tell the whole story. Who knew? They talk about the result of aging, not the process of getting there. If you think it’s the first time you stood in front of the bank machine and couldn’t remember your pin number or the day you started watching Bill O’Reilly and said to yourself “That guy makes sense.” you’re wrong. You were way over the hill long before that.
It starts the day your kid gives you a cardigan sweater for Christmas. Your first reaction is “Who wears a cardigan? What am I a sit-com dad from the 50’s? Am I posing for the dust jacket photo on my next novel? Looks like the one my grandfather wore over his hospital gown!” Then nanoseconds later you look down and think ”Nice. Comfy. Not to mention quite fetching”. You don’t know it but that is the moment you are officially old.
This is a cliché I wanted to avoid but have you watched the Grammy Awards lately? I not only haven’t heard of any of the award winners. I don’t even know the lifetime achievement inductees. When the Beastie Boys are cause for everyone else’s weepy nostalgia for their long and treasured career and you can’t honestly say you know who they are… something should twig. But it doesn’t.
Then a couple of your kids get married. This is bad because you know at any moment there is a risk of someone asking you, in a sincere way, if you would prefer being called Grampa or Granddad. When that question is posed you know you’re looking at “middle aged” in the rear view mirror. Not that you’ve used your rear view mirror since the Carter administration but you know what I mean. You rationalize someone asking this appalling question by saying to yourself” This can’t be. My kids just got out of high school , let’s see, 12 years ago… Oh.” You quickly go to plan B which is “I’ll be the cool granddad. Strangers might even think it’s my kid”. Proof positive that people become delusional as they get older.
If you aren’t a grandparent and don’t relate to this, watch your 67 year old golf buddy try to chat up the drink cart girl. He genuinely thinks he has a shot. Same delusion but considerably sadder because he’s wearing a golf cardigan and pee stained plaid pants.
The coup de grace. The final confirmation. The unavoidable truth comes home to roost when you are asked to baby sit the 2 year old grandkid by yourself. The following time line is 100% true and it was the day I had to admit that, despite my tender years, I had achieved oldness.
8;30 pm “He didn’t have a nap today and he’s sound asleep. Call me if he wakes up. Won’t be late”. 9;20 pm “Whaaaa! Where’s mommy? ( This needs to be said in the panicked scream of someone who has just realized that the world is coming to an abrupt and violent end). “She went out. We could make pop corn and watch cartoons if you want”. “Okay” said in a calm rational voice as if the last 90 seconds of searing terror had never happened. It should be noted here that I thought we’d have a salty snack, a diet coke, finish with a bottle of warm milk and he would drift off happily. Tuck tuck. Done. Coolest granddad ever.
11:30 pm “ I enjoy 2 hours of Inspector Gadget as much as the next man but now I’m sleepy. Want to lie down in granddad’s bed til mum gets home?” “No freakin’ way! Do you want me to flip right freakin’ out again? Is that what you want? Said in a non-verbal but equally terrifying facial expression.
1am “Wake up Granddad. Potty NOW!” Grandparenting tip. The combination of Coca Cola and several bottles of warm milk can cause a fire hose of urine streaming out over the top of the toilet and onto the only pair of pajamas that doesn’t require a Cirque du Soleil veteran to get into. You will be tempted to reach down and redirect the pee pee tsunami . Do this at your own peril. If, as in this case, the child looks up at you and says “Don’t touch” you will figure out in short order that wet PJ’s are better than jail time. In my opinion, even if the pedophile charges are dropped it still makes for several awkward Thanksgiving dinners to come.
2 am “Wake up Granddad. Scary”. Apparently the Family Network runs chain saw massacre movies in the wee hours. Looked pretty fake to me but the kid seemed a bit squeamish so we go back to Inspector Gadget reruns which for me are coma inducing but have a methamphetamine effect on the lad.
3 am Child’s mother arrives and of course is horrified to see her baby boy still bug eyed. She says with a disapproving glance that I had failed this test. I slink off to bed feeling my venerable age.
Maxine says. “Age is a state of mind”. No it’s not. If you’re over 55 wake up and smell the Old Spice my friend. We’re old, we’re cold, get use to it.