As I approach six decades on this Earth—or three score as Mr. Lincoln would have said—I realize I am fast becoming an old man. I don’t think I’m going to be any good at it. It’s not that I don’t have the aches and pains or can’t complain about the government with the best of them, but I don’t possess the skills it takes to be an old man. Somehow they have eluded me over the years. I am old-man-skills challenged. Maybe there is some government program where I can get assistance at developing the skills I’ll need.
When I was a kid, old men were excellent at remembering dates. They’d say things like, “I remember back in ’43,” or sometimes they’d be really specific like, “I remember back on December 22, 1943 at 2:35 in the afternoon, it started snowing and kept snowing for forty days and forty nights and we had to build a snow ark…”
I can remember it snowing and a lot of other things happening when I was younger, but I am never sure of the dates or even the years. I suppose I could just make dates up, but what self-respecting old man would ever do something like that? They’d probably kick me out of the Old Man Club–if there is one.
I’m trying to get better at being an old man. I have started practicing resting my eyes. That’s what old men do when they try to fool young kids into thinking they’re sleeping. When I was young I would come into a room and Grandpa would be sprawled back in his rocker with his eyes closed, looking to the entire world as if he were sleeping. When I asked him if he was sleeping, he would say,”No, I’m just resting my eyes.” Sometimes I’d have to ask him two or three times before he’d answer. I imagine inside he laughed and laughed at how he had fooled me into thinking he was sleeping, but he did a good job of not rubbing it in. Normally he just went back to resting his eyes and waiting for his next victim. When my father got older, he would rest his eyes, too, although normally he would be lying on the couch with a little stream of drool running out of the corner of his mouth. It heightened the effect, and he fooled me into thinking he was sleeping several times. I’ve gotten pretty good at resting my eyes, and I’ve fooled my grandkids a time or two. I find throwing a few snores in now and then really sells it.
The biggest problem I have is old men are supposed to take kids out and teach them to do things like fishing, camping and woodcraft. Even if the kids don’t want to learn those thing, the old men teach them anyway, because they’re bigger, and they teach them whether they want to learn or not. My grandkids fish a little bit, but they are more into music and playing instruments. I can’t help them much with that, because I don’t even play the radio very well. I played the guitar a little when I was young. I don’t want to brag, because an old man would never do that, but people often compared my guitar playing to Jimi Hendrix’s—if he had two broken hands and was brain damaged.
I suppose I could try to force my grandkids to learn to fish and camp, but my daughter was inconsiderate enough to have them when I was still young. Now that I’m getting to be an old man, my grandson is too big to force him to do anything. I think I could still take my granddaughter in a fair fight, but I just know she wouldn’t fight fair. I guess I could find one of the little neighbor’s kids and show them how to fish and camp. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in twenty-six years of law enforcement it’s that the police tend to frown on old men grabbing little kids and telling them they’re going to show them something.
Maybe it will all come to me as I get older. Maybe I’ll magically get those old man skills I don’t have now. It has happened with other things. For a long time I had fished and never caught a legal length muskie, and then one day back in ’78—in fact it was a Tuesday, August 5, 1978 at 5:36 in the afternoon…
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