Tuesday 25 Oct 2016

Larger Numbers
JR Hafer

There comes a point, I suppose, when you notice, not only physical changes, but emotional and character changes, too. It is up for debate, whether it is an evolution or a revolution in us. To paraphrase Karl Marx, I think it is evolution leading to revolution.

Perhaps, only those who experience this feeling understand. That is, understand the weird and overwhelming events akin to mental flatulence. Either way, it reeks.

Not long ago, a friend asked me, "Hey, how does it feel to be turning 62 years old?" I thought for a moment, and said, through gritted teeth, "Do you remember how it felt to turn 25?"

He said, "Yep, sure do." Then I mumbled, as I turned to make a quick exit, "If feels the same damn way, except ya just can't do as many things as fast!"

It's hard to explain, but there comes a time, no matter how much you deny it, you are getting old! The view, of "how old is old," depends on what side of the equation you are on. If you are 32, 62 may be old. If you are 82, 62 years old is young. Either way, 62 is a lot younger than it used to be.

I look into the mirror and hardly recognize the face staring back at me. Sometimes, I think it must be a trick mirror or maybe I am somewhere else in time and space. I even try to outfox the reflection, with a sudden move or quick turn just to see if it is my own reflection or not.

When I comb my thinning, well-cropped and white hair, I feel lucky it is mine and not removable. I don't care for the idea of storing my hair on a mannequin, at night. Sometimes, I look at my reflection, in the mirror, and, just like Fonzie, I say, "Heyyyy," shrugging my shoulders and walking away. Now I ask you, is that defensive or a touch of senility? Don't say, "Both."

I hear that sometimes we become what we dread most." I think that might even be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I surely never wanted to be an angry old man, I said so many times.

There was a man, who worked for me, as a gate guard. That was some time ago, but I remember his name, Cole. He was an angry old sort. Cole was the most arrogant, rude and mean person I have known.

If you greeted him, "Good Morning, Cole," he would reply, "There ain't a #@$&# good thing about this #$%#@ morning!" You could hear him shout across the parking lot, "Don't you dare tell me what kind of day to have you stupid #%$@*%@*%." He would cuss you every chance he got, and for any reason. No one liked him. Cole did not even like himself, I suspect.

Cole was in his early to middle 60s. It was hard to tell his age. He always had a hateful scowl on his face. He was a widower. His wife had died, and sometimes I thought I understand why. I think he became a security guard just to taunt and intimidate people. We thought it was the only enjoyment he had. He would check people in and out as they came to work, in the morning, and left, after their shift. I knew of some folks who worked overtime, off the clock, just waiting to leave while "Old Cole" was making his rounds.

No one wanted to be friends, with "Old Cole," he was intolerant, impatient and hated people. Oh my, he hated children and loud folks most. He'd give you a piece of his mind, any time.

I could go on and on about him and his lack of a personable attitude. I think you understand. Everyone knows a Cole or three.

The other day, I went into the bathroom. Standing at the sink, I'm not sure, but I could've sworn I saw "Old Cole" staring back at me in the mirror! Hells Bells, it startled the "bejeepers" out of me. I dove for the light switch, and flipped it off and on several times, trying to scare away the ghoulish haunt. When I regained my composure, I felt stupid.

Maybe it was just that illusive butterfly, of life, making it known to me? Perhaps, it was "Old Cole" warning me, but that's doubtful. Those events would only be a delightful merriment for him to haunt me.

It is difficult to shave by Braille. I know I'm going to have to look into the mirror again soon. The truth about it is I'm afraid of what I might see. It has given me reason to evaluate my recent lack of patience and intolerance of others. It has made me aware of giving short answers. I even wanted to tell someone off the other day when they told me to have a good day, can you imagine?

I find myself choosing a table, in a restaurant, that's away from kids and noise. Do you suppose this a sign? I find myself getting irritated at incompetence and complacency in a restaurant. I'll give the wait staff a piece of my mind and let them know that customer service is non-existent. By gosh they must earn their tip when serving me.

I admit it, I'm getting old. I can't do what I used to do, as easily and often or at all. However, I still feel young! Well, to be honest, no I don't. I must confess I can't lean over and tie my shoelaces as easily as I once did. I turn a bright red as I strain and hurry to complete the task. I often have to straighten up, in the middle of a task, to catch my breath, letting the blood again flow around my beltline, then I take a deep breath and diving back down for another try.

I think the younger generation is going to go deaf because of all of that loud music. Oh my, that sounds so familiar, where have I heard that before? Next, I might hear myself saying "That music is of the devil. Remember our parents saying that very thing about our rock n roll music? I suppose, we all fear turning into our parents when we become parents ourselves. Sometimes, depending on the measure of dysfunction of your family, that could be a good thing.

Have you ever heard a travelling "boom box" on wheels behind you? When you look in the mirror, there would be no question about which car it is. Of course it is the car with the expanding windows bulging in and out.

My car trembles because of the decibel level. The vibration makes my heart pound with each beat of these cars with the music cranked up as they pass.

I told one kid yesterday as he fuelled his car at the next pump, his music blaring while he pumped gas, "that loud noise will damage and stop my pacemaker" I said, as I held my chest. "Hey, did you know you could be charged with murder?" That didn't help either he just shrugged and said "Huh?" That's when I think I saw a vacancy sign as I looked into his unfocused eyes.

After he finished fuelling his car, he looked over at me and said, "Have a good day Old Man". I wanted to question his heritage as I gave him the finger as he drove off.

I have defiantly arrived at the age where I don't have to take the "crap." I know I can't move as well, fast or often as I once did. Yes, that tees me off.

I remember when I could dress and undress in a wink of an eye, without fanfare. There will soon be the day when I must remove my hair, teeth and support hose; take my thirty-two pills, rub lotion on my dry cracking heels and apply ointment on the patches of eczema, put on clean socks and so forth. Wow, what a ritual.

I once could party all night-long and sleep an hour, get up and do it all again, no sweat! Now, if I don't get a full eight hours of sleep, I get "cranky" and irritable. After a bad night and a spat of not sleeping well, I sometimes want to tell the young joyous bubbly personalities at the office where to go when they greet me so energetically in the morning.

There was a time I could fall asleep when my head hit the pillow, and sleep solid without any interruption at all. Now, I can hardly sleep for a full hour without getting up and visiting the toilet. I become short-tempered and downright angry during the day because of difficulty sleeping.

Do you think "Old Cole" didn't sleep well? Maybe that's one reason he was so grumpy? Perhaps, he was angry because he was getting old or couldn't do what he once could. Maybe it is confusing to admit you are old and can't do what you once could. Maybe aging makes you angry as hell. Often, it frightens you, and all you know to do is strike out like a serpent?

Thanks "Old Man Cole." You have made me aware of my becoming an angry old man! Then, again, maybe not angry, but accepting.

JR Hafer writes from his home in central Florida.

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