April 16, 2024

No News From Doodlebug Island…by William F Jordan


A peppery centenarian, James Watchkiss, celebrated another birthday this week, and was given a ticker-tape parade through downtown Doodlebug, riding in a rickshaw pulled by barmaids from Barney’s grog shop. “Take me where you will, but I’m like an old library book and must be checked back in for my afternoon nap. Orpheus won’t wait!” Well, the parade ended at the plaza where we gave him a noisy welcome and where someone had arranged a microphone. There were a couple speeches short in length but long in praise, then James was asked to speak.

“This has been very nice,” he said, “but how in the hell did we end up here instead of Barney’s, I’d like to know! You’re familiar with my motto by now, ‘Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you sleep alone! But if you’re waiting for enlightenment, or inspiration, you’ll go home disappointed. However, a few of you have asked about aging, and here’s what I’ve learned.

“After ninety, the first thing you do each morning is conduct inventory of what still works, and being grateful for that. The next thing is to question what is newly wrong or that became apparent yesterday or in the recent past to see if it is redeemable on any level. Just getting out of bed would be helped by an ejection system from an F-35, while standing erect without wobbling requires seismological understanding characterized by the Richtor scale.

Looking into a mirror is a huge mistake and nearly always results in a surprised expression like, “My Word! How did that happen?” Becoming personally acquainted with newly acquired creases, bumps, spots, protrusions, wrinkles, moles, and
hollows is character building and contributes to patience if contemplated long enough—that is for the rest of your natural life!

“Of course, there is an upside to aging. For example, you are able to use the hair growing so prolifically from your ears as part of a comb-over, and there are those who have utilized long, unruly eyebrow hair for the same purpose. “While dealing with age and concomitant infirmity is difficult, it’s not so hard as dealing with the unreasonable expectations of friends and relatives. For example, what resort to reason could be found for the prodding of those around you to remain awake and alert in the face of a boring church service or social event? And there is the continual harping of your grown children, “Keep your teeth in your mouth and quit scaring your grand-children! Or, people picking at you: ‘that shirt appears to have come over with you on the ark!’

“There appears to be a confounded role reversal with one’s children regarding such things as changing clothes, showering, appropriate language, etiquette, driving, etc. That used to be our job, and we’re left wondering when exactly we gave it up?

“And there is the recurring question, “What has advancing age taught you? The assumption appears to be that age equals wisdom, or that because you’re nearer death you could be expected to know the answers. Hell, I knew more at 22 than now, or thought I did. All that’s left is the certainty that I and we don’t know a damn thing!

“Now, to be honest, there’s a resentment factor in aging. One’s decline is a humiliating experience to begin with. Tottering, after all, isn’t the most becoming activity in which to engage, and the need for help is demeaning. Things you used to do with ease, including such minor things as walking or turning the pages of a book or newspaper, are a constant reminder of limitations when you think and believe you are still as good as ever.

“But possibly of most importance, there is the nagging temptation to look back over your life, and this is often encouraged by loved ones who would like to both extend their own view of time and learn how you generalize your experiences. We did the same with our progenitors. But, in some ways, looking back is akin to what our mothers used to tell us when we crossed our eyes. “Stop that or one day, you won’t get your eyes uncrossed!” We live in the present, and, while looking back can be of help in dealing with life, we would do well to remember the good we can do now in the time remaining to us. Advice to those younger might be: learn what you are interested in finding out from us, but whatever else, help us remain relevant, nostalgia notwithstanding!”

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