August 22nd, 2019

The Counsel of the Years

By G. E. Shuman
I’m 62 years old. Or, as some of my seventh-grade students would phrase it if referring to their age, I’m 62 and a half. I’ll be 63 in July. (Remember that, if you want to send me a present.)

I don’t really care about my age (as if there is anything I could do about it if I did), and I try to tackle the passing years as my mother does. She turned 93 just yesterday, as I write this column, and has often told me that she has never minded being whatever age she happens to be at the time. I think that’s a fantastic attitude to have, and could be the reason she is still able to live on her own, in Florida, drive her car, and fly to Maine for a visit each summer. She is an amazing woman.

Having said all of that, I am recently aware that people around me don’t exactly view me as being in late middle age, anymore. I guess that’s because I’m NOT in late middle age, anymore. People don’t live to be 125. Oh well.

I had to go to the hospital the other day for some blood tests. I don’t mind tests like that. The older you get the more you realize that they are just a part of life, and of keeping upright and above the grass. I plan to do that as long as possible, so I go for the tests.

In any case, I got to the lab at the hospital and was greeted by a really friendly, beautiful young technician, with long blond hair. She was very nice, and perky, and seemed happy to see me, and all of that was ruined when she asked me to follow her to one of the little exam rooms. She said, and I quote; “Follow me, Hon. We’ll just go into this room, right here, Hon.” All guys my age are, or should be, keenly aware that a beautiful young lady has mentally labeled you a dinosaur if she calls you ‘Hon’. That’s just the way it is.

This nice lab lady, who has been around for fewer years than some of my neckties, and who was only trying to be kind, must have called me ‘Hon’ 10 times in the 10 minutes I was with her. She also asked me if I would ‘be able’ to pee in a cup for her. Wow. She said that with the same, slightly sad, pleading look on her face that someone would have if they were asking you to donate a kidney. Or was that just my imagination? (If I didn’t feel like an old, humiliated geezer before that, I certainly did then.) Would I be ABLE to? Really? She didn’t think I was capable of that? And how do you even ANSWER a question like that?

Also, although this happened before the hospital visit, a somewhat younger church friend of mine had recently said “Hi young fella!” as he shook my hand before the service. Wow, again. That one was a DEAD giveaway that he thought of me as anything BUT a ‘young’ fella. I suddenly had feelings of revenge that a person shouldn’t have while in church. Do you think I’m being oversensitive? I don’t.

That encounter was almost, but not quite, as discouraging as the time, years ago, when a young female hairdresser put her pretty face down close to the side of my head; so close, in fact, that I could feel her breath on my neck. That split second of feeling ‘good’ was swept away faster than was the gray hair on the floor, as she took out some small clippers and trimmed the hair that she saw GROWING OUT OF MY EARS! There I sat, in silent humiliation, as she did this.

And then there was the moment, only last week, when a young bagger at the supermarket, a teenage girl who looked like she must weigh about 98 pounds, soaking wet, asked me if I would like help taking my groceries to the car. Again, really? I know those kids are told to ask this question to older people, but come on. As ancient as I evidently appeared to her, I’m pretty sure I could have thrown her over a shoulder with one hand, and picked up the bags of food with the other. Okay, so maybe not, but I wasn’t about to have this little girl help me with the bags. Not yet, anyway. My wife was with me, and took great pleasure in seeing the perplexed look on my face.

My favorite poem, Desiderata, has a line that says “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.” Even though I love that poem, I’m not ready to gracefully surrender much of anything yet. If you meet me, please don’t call me Hon, or Young Fella, or notice hair growing out of any part of my body. Also, I can still manage my own groceries, thank you.

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