Posted by: JDM..... | January 8, 2012

old birthday ponderings revisited  

…….I remember looking up from the morning crossword puzzle and, with my pencil, parting the curtains covering the window across the table. Dawn. I glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall above the refrigerator and noted that, as of that moment, I had completed 65 years on this galactic spitball.

Celebrating my birthday with a dish of prunes and a Purple Pill wasn’t my idea of a joyous event, but it would suffice. I sat back and contemplated the first time some young titan of testosterone had mustered the audacity to look me in the eye and file me under c:\fart\old.doc not too many years earlier.

I had smiled and reminded him that the primary difference between him and I was that his skin fit better. Other than that we were pretty much cut from the same cloth, I had noted.

I wondered though, on that morning of my 65th birthday. Surely I was not unique, my life having demonstrated quite clearly, at least to that point, that a speck of pine pollen wafting to the surface of Moosehead Lake in north-central Maine had disturbed the surface of that great body significantly more than my existence had influenced one way or the other humanity’s headlong rush toward oblivion, omnipotence, or the nearest bar. Nevertheless, my own assessment of my demeanor and behavior gave rise to the question of how a 65 year old man is supposed to conduct himself. I was new at this “Senior Citizen” shtick.

Was it OK at the venerable age of 65 to lean back and belch as long and as loud as one could?

Did other 65 year old men pilot four wheel drive trucks through the woods, driving with one hand and conducting Mozart as it booms out of the radio with the other?

Was it OK for a 65 year old man bellow “Eat me” to the strains of Handel’s Messiah when someone in a Massachusetts SUV passed him on the right in the breakdown lane and shook an insulting fist at him?

“These are important questions,” I decided.

I vowed to contemplate them carefully, and if need be, make some minor adjustments in my behavior once I reach 66….

That was almost three years ago, and I’ve got another birthday coming up in a couple of months. Things haven’t changed a whole lot, except I’m three years older. I still greet the day in my favorite rocking chair by the kitchen window, drinking coffee and doing a crossword puzzle.

I did manage to answer those three important questions I had, however, and the answer was surprisingly simple: “Who cares?”

I look at it this way. The belching thing is all about timing. One has to make some concessions. I learned at an early age that “belching” was not considered to be “polite” in our culture. Being of the male persuasion, however, I also learned that developing an impressive repertoire of body noises was not only requisite to the rites of passage, but it annoyed the hell out of my mother. It was particularly gratifying, since my primary practice studio was my second floor bedroom, when she could hear me all the way down in the cellar doing laundry.

Puberty changed all of that, and I had to learn to adjust my behavior to suit the environment. Other than a few rather interesting acts of adolescent bravado, which will go unrevealed here, I learned to “mind my manners” with the best of them, which enabled me to date females of my own species, join the campus upper crust as a Fraternity man, earn a commission in the Navy, and enjoy meaningful employment for much of my adult life.

Moving ahead nearly half a century, I find remarkable similarities between childhood and seniority. While the rules of propriety learned over a lifetime remain fully intact, I find that a little bit of well executed doddering garners some tolerance for public transgressions. I generally withhold my intentional launchings, however, for the privacy of my home, parking garages at night, still mountain lakes at dawn, and other places where the acoustics demand a cameo performance.

As for the second two questions, I might add that “yes”, it is perfectly normal for men to drive four-wheel drive trucks in the woods, and what they listen to for music is irrelevant. What would be decidedly obscene would be a squat, balding gnome wearing baggy jeans and a backward baseball cap while making signs, and chanting “Rap”.

Similarly, it is also perfectly normal to listen to Handel’s Messiah while driving on the Interstate, even if temporarily distracted by the need to utter obscenities at a Massachusetts driver passing on the right in the breakdown lane, although it would probably be more appropriate to turn off the music until I am finished.

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