Monthly Archives: September 2011

To Hair is Human

I graduated from law school when I was 23 years old.   Because I finished so early, I already had the disadvantage of looking like a little kid, basically the legal equivalent of Doogie Howser, M.D.  (a reference too old for many of you.)  Interview after interview I watched as I gave all the right answers, but got blank stares back from the interviewer.  Surely they were thinking, “Does this guy even shave yet?”   Quite honestly, I did not have to shave every day.

Because of all the Mestizo blood in me on my mother’s side, facial hair is not high on my list of accomplishments.   Neither was hair on my legs, arms, chest, or other parts of my body.   So my misguided solution to looking older was to grow a mustache.    What a pitiful sight it was to see the little hairs sprouting from my lip.  I see people like my son Sam that could probably grow a full beard in one afternoon, and it took me the better part of a month to get it to look like something other than a dirty upper lip.

So what is the big deal about that?  If you know me or have seen my picture, you know that I now sport a full beard.  It’s  gray, of course, but it IS a full beard.   It took me a long time to grow it, and I have had at least a full beard or goatee since I was 40.   The reason I blog about this is simple.   Now that I am moving along the time continuum, I find that hair grows where I don’t want it to.

Where in the heck did that hair on the underside of my wrist come from?   Who the heck is the old man in the mirror with the Andy Rooney eyebrows?   Holy crap, those aren’t  boogers in my nose, they are long, ugly gray hairs!    When did I sign up for that?

My fondest wish is that I could stop right there with this disgusting topic of hair growth.  But I can’t.   Driving to work the other day, my wife Molly said, “Are those hairs growing out of your ear?”  Oh how cruel the gods of aging seem to be.  The one thing that I had hoped would never happen had in fact occurred.   Ironically, Molly and I had that discussion just a few days earlier.  I was telling her how we used to kid my dad about braiding the hair that grew out of his ears and now here I was suffering from that same old man curse.  Where were all those hair follicles when I needed them, and who told them to move into unoccupied areas of my body?

I  am not totally ungrateful.  As I see more and more of my friends that I grew up with, at least I can honestly say that I don’t have the super wide part in the middle of my head.  I don’t have to consider shaving my head to hide the fact that I am balding.   The very genes that kept me from growing facial hair also kept me from losing it on top of my head.  As a good friend told me, it is better for your hair to go gray than to just go away.

I am grateful for little favors.

Advertisements

The Grandparent Transformation

As I walked in the front door of my parent’s house 20 years ago, my dear departed mom told me to be really quiet and follow her to the back room.   I had no idea what was going on, after all I was just there to pick up my two daughters that had spent the afternoon with their grandparents.  My mom continued to hush me and told me to sneak a peek out the back window at my dad and the girls.  Wow! was I in for a surprise.   There in the back yard was my dad, wearing what looked like a tutu around his waist, doing a  hula dance with Erica and Jessica.

This is the same man who was too embarrassed to dance with my mom at my wedding.  This is the same man who had little time to play silly games with this sons because we had “too much work to do.”  The same man who thought that the world of music stopped at the death of Hank Williams was dancing with my daughters to some silly 80’s song on the radio.  (I know that saying silly and 80’s music in the same sentence is redundant.)

What on earth happened?  What did they do with my dad?  Who is this imposter in the tutu?  He most certainly is not my dad.  From talking to many of my friends, I know now that this is not an isolated incident.  Becoming a grandparent changes people.  Usually drastically.    My mom and dad both worked long hard hours as we grew up.  My mom had little time for cooking big fancy meals, but what she made was filling and nutritious.   We learned early on that “this is not a restaurant, you eat what I fix you or you don’t eat!”    This rule echoed in my mind as I watched my parents take orders from my girls for the special soup they made for them whenever they wanted.   Darn, where was that when I was a kid?

Then I realized that I am slowly going down that path now.  I have done a lot of camping and fishing with the Boy Scouts over the last several years.  I have done my share of fishing with the scouts and had pretty much exhausted my enjoyment with that activity.   This summer, while my grandson Trey was in town, I went fishing with him, and stayed out with him for a lot longer than I expected.   Even when he no longer wanted to bait the hook and just wanted to cast out an empty hook into the water, I had a blast  just watching him do it.  When a fellow fisherman left and gave us his box of worms, Trey dropped all interest in the fishing pole and just wanted to play with the worms.   Did I lose interest or patience?  Absolutely not.  I just sat back and enjoyed watching this little boy have the time of his life while I sat in the hot sun sweating like a little pig.

What causes this kind of change?  Well, I think that there is a lot of things.      Grandparent love is not restricted by  parental constraints. A Grandparent gets to have all the fun and not have to worry about all that discipline stuff.    When my dad would not take the time to play “silly” games with us, he was training us in the art of a good work ethic.  He did not have to teach that to my girls, that was my job. As a result, he got to open up that part of his heart that he kept closed.    The older I get, the smarter and smarter my parents seem to get in my mind.

I am expecting that Chloe, my granddaughter that is due in November, will get a lot of that unvarnished Grandpa attention.  I know that she can count on having a grandpa that is ready to spoil her rotten.   I should probably be fitted for a tutu.

Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.  ~Welsh Proverb

I have a photographic memory – but I am out of film.

The Skippers name in Gilligan’s Island is Jonas Grumby (his character’s name).  The four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are Raphael, Michaelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello.  My phone number from the time I was in fifth grade till I moved out of my parents house was 915-778-2252.  I can tell you the first words my former law associate Richard Contreras ever said to me when I met him in fifth grade.

But where the heck are the keys to my truck?   What was it I told my wife Molly I would do before I came and picked her up from work?  Did I really leave my folder full of papers on top of my truck before driving off today?     My mind can recall amazing details about trivial stuff (I dare you to play Trivial Pursuit), but I no longer remember simple things that I should.   Thank goodness my wife is here or I would probably forget to feed the dogs.  .

They say that there are three things that go with old age.  The first is memory, and I can’t remember what the other two were.  Thank goodness for smart phones (which I still occasionally forget at home).   When I had one of the first PDA’s, a new generation Palm Pilot, it sat on my desk at home 5 or 6 days out of 7 because I would forget to bring it with me.  Molly bought Ginkgo Biloba to help with memory, and you guessed it –  I would forget to take it.

Now there are many of you that know me that say I have always been a bit absent-minded – and I concede the point.    But forgetting the names of people I have known for years?    Having that word sit on the tip of your tongue just taunting you and not being able to spit it out?     I often compose a text and forget to hit the send button.

One of the biggest fears I have in life is dementia or Alzheimer’s.    I have seen people just disappear with those horrible diseases.   Because I keep “forgetting” things, I finally brought it to the attention of my family physician.  You know what that arrogant “Doogie Howser” looking doctor called what I had?   Age Accumulation.   He says that it is a natural progression of aging and that I should not worry about it.  Gee, I wonder if he makes me pay up front because I might “forget” to pay before I leave?

All kidding aside, my doctor and others I have talked to says that the adage “use it or lose it” is very appropriate in this instance.  So I make an effort to resist just vegetating in front of the TV and I read a lot, still try to do the occasional crossword puzzle, and study presidential history (still a nerd).   My hopes and prayers are that it will be enough to ward off my worries.

(I am adding this paragraph 10 days after I wrote the above.  When no one had commented on this article I was a bit surprised.   Well surprise, surprise, surprise.    This genius forgot to hit the publish button.)

Senior Citizen Discount

I was quite struck the other day as I purchased some fast food at Carl Jr.’s and noticed that I had automatically been given the “Senior Discount.”   For the first time ever I was not asked if I was old enough to get the discount, if I wanted the discount, or even if I deserved the discount.   This came as quite a shock to me.

Why was it a shock?   Well, I frankly do not know.  I started going gray in my mid-thirties.   At my 20th reunion I was one of the two finalists for the person with the grayest hair.   People have asked me for a long time why I did not use Grecian Formula.   So appearance wise, I guess I had it coming.  But why now, and not 5 years earlier when I had as much gray hair as I have now?

Then I looked at the mirror to see if I could see any difference.  Oops!,  I don’t remember that bunch of wrinkles, and when in the heck did I get a turkey neck? Maybe the fact that my beard is almost all gray convinced that poor, unknowing, benevolent fast-food worker that I deserved a 10% break, because after all “damn he looks old!”  (My words, not hers).  Oh no!  Are those age spots on my hands and arms?   Certainly she couldn’t have mistaken my limp from my recent Achilles surgery as a sign of my advancing years, could she?  Did the fact that I ordered a turkey burger instead of a big, fat, greasy cheeseburger convince her that I was watching my cholesterol?

Then I remembered a conversation with a co-worker where we discussed the different types of medication we took every day,  and how we both decided not that long ago that playing basketball with a bunch of 20-25 year olds at church was not such a great idea.  After all, unless you are making 7 figures shooting hoops then you can’t justify having to ice your knees down every time you finish playing.

So what do I do now?   Absolutely nothing.   The age thing is not an obsession.  In fact, it is downright fascinating to watch my friends and me gradually “Slipping into Senior Status.”  My wife Molly constantly reminds me that getting old is not a big deal.

I gained a passion for writing after having survived  Honie Lou Laster’s Senior English class in high school.  That was 1973-1974.  She told me to write what was in my heart and on my mind without a thought about what anyone else said.  All she asked was that I observe proper grammar and that I avoid starting more than one sentence per paragraph with the word I.  After graduation Honie Lou became a client and a friend, and she loved to write letters.   We wrote back and forth for many years, and every so often she would send me back my letters with corrections in grammar and suggestions about how to improve my writing style

Years have gone by with no real time or energy to do what I have always wanted to do – write.   Molly always encourages me to do it.  There is no illusion that I have the skill and talent to become a world-class writer, but again, Honie Lou said to write what I felt and what I know.  I know about growing old.  Certainly I can write the occasional blurb about my observations of this journey into old age, both the good and the bad.   In fact, it might be somewhat therapeutic.

So, here it is.  The start of my blog about getting old.  A way to quench the desire to put my words down so others can see them.  It is my sincerest hope that someone out there will enjoy them.   Let me make one more quick thank you to someone else for inspiring me to write my thoughts.  My daughter Erica and son-in-law Shaun are backpacking through Central and South America.  I look forward to the posts on their blog at www.overyonderlust.com.   They have inspired me to take a crack at this blogging thing.

I can’t promise how often I will post, but I promise that I will continue to put my thoughts down as they come.

Here’s to old age!