I'm not old yet. I've said that before around here, more times than I can remember. I'm getting there. So are you. I remember when I was a young man. I washed dishes in a rest home in Canon City, Colorado back in the late 70's. I was 16 years old. Anyway, there were lots of old people there. I used to watch them sometimes, sitting there on a sofa or a dining chair, staring into space. Some of them seemed afraid. Some of them seemed unsure of what was going on around them. Some of them looked as if they didn't care at all.
I remember asking one old guy how the food was one night. He said with a chuckle "It all tastes the same after awhile."
Back then, I didn't know what to make of that. I couldn't even think, is that what I have to look forward to? I couldn't comprehend being so old that everything tastes the same. Does the spice seep out of your life the older you get? Do colors fade? Do the birds stop chirping and babies stop crying? Is that what they mean when they say life passes you by? Truthfully, I never thought those things after he said that. Those are the questions of a middle aged man, not a 16 year old kid who thinks he knows everything. Back then, it was just something a tired old man said, sitting there in clothes too big for him, with a dab of pureed peas drying in the corner of his mouth.
That was 35 years ago. Yeah, I know, I can hardly believe it either. A dumb kid with absolutely no idea of what was coming. Graduation, military service, kids, marriages, divorces, deaths--holy crap, a class 5 hurricane was about to wash my dumb ass out to sea and I thought my dinghy was going to be enough.
I keep telling you, I 'm not old yet. But I'm beginning to understand what it must feel like when you are. The world changes so rapidly. I can see how a body can be afraid. I mean, what the hell is going on? Reality TV, cell phones, electronics everywhere, folks getting their heads chopped off, never ending wars, murder, mayhem, jaywalking, where does it end? I can see how an old guy would want to stay on his couch. It's a refuge, man, from all that crazy. He's got his coffee, his knick knacks, his big ass Curtis Mathis and the lamp his wife, God Rest Her Soul, picked up at that flea market back in the day. He looks out the window and it doesn't matter if the sun is up or not, all he sees is dark. It's a scary place out there. It's not his world anymore.
I'm not afraid of the world, and I still like a good steak, but sometimes when I sit at the table with my coffee cooling in front of me, I just wish it would all slow down. I want to get off these rapids and sit under the sun by a lazy stream and listen to the insects buzz and just take a nap. I get it. When you've been around for awhile, there's a lot of years resting on those narrow shoulders. You've seen it all, you've heard it all, and everything tastes like chicken. Kids are gone, people are dying, and sometimes it just seems like nothing really matters anymore.
But maybe, just maybe, a bright smile and hug might brighten things up a little. Maybe that's all it will take to bring you back, to let you know that you are not just a faded black and white Kodak moment sitting on the mantle next to a ceramic elephant.
So, go hug an old person today. Let them know they matter. Let them talk about the old days. Watch Mayberry RFD with them on DVD and eat grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup on TV trays in the living room, like old times. And when Gramps waxes nostalgic, let him ramble.
You might learn something.