Jerry Clower was one of the great old storytelling comedians of all time. When I was a boy and when it was rainy or cold outside, I used to play his records on my little pressed cardboard-boxed record player and on cue, I could recite just about any of the dozens of stories Jerry told.
Each of Jerry’s jokes was actually a story from something that happened to him when he was a kid, which led up to a final comedic ending, and his stories were full of old southern references and “isms” that you just don’t find today. One memorable story from his latter years involved a conversation he had with another man who asked Jerry, “Jerry, do you think kids today are better, or worse than they were when you were young?”
Jerry’s response meandered around for a few minutes until finally coming around to the punchline, which used his own son as a reference, “If I’d’a had me one of those…Chrysler Lebaron convertibles when I was his age, not only would I have stole those watermelons, but sir, I woulda gotten away with it too!”
Guess you kinda had to be there…
But times have changed. For instance, you just didn’t NOT call a man “Sir” and a woman “Ma’am” where I grew up. Not doing so was likely to get you in suspension at school, a stern looking at in church, or a raised eyebrow and a dirty look from a parent. You just said “Sir” and “Ma’am” and that was that. As a parent now, I’ve struggled with this with my own kids, because while I’d like for them to say “Sir” and “Ma’am” to other people, I’m not sure I’m ready to be called “Sir” yet to my face, AND I know that there is a relationship divide that occurs between a parent and a child when the child is forced to call his dad sir. I certainly felt it with my dad, and I don’t really want that between my sons and me. So, I’m torn.
Little cathartic moments in life happen, but like most things that grab your attention, it’s when a pattern emerges that you really stop and take notice.
Pattern instance #1: Recently, a cute little thing at my kids’ daycare called me sir. I brushed it off as a fact that I was a parent and she was an attendant and she was being polite.
Pattern instance #2: At the gym this past weekend, I walked over to a lat pulldown machine that was loaded down with weight. There didn’t appear to be anyone using it, but there was this one great big guy sorta strolling around in the general vicinity and to be polite, I asked him if he was using the machine.
“No sir,” he replied, to which I started laughing and said, “Please don’t call me sir.”
Now, he could have said any number of things here that would have ameliorated any potential damaged pride on my part, but he said what was possibly the worst thing he could have said to me.
He said, “Well, I don’t feel there’s enough respect from young people today to people older than them…” he said something else, but my brain froze up at that point.
“…people older than them?” The guy couldn’t have been more than a handful of years younger than me. Or maybe I’m just completely out of touch. Now granted, in gym years, 35 is almost as old as my computer, but still!
Pattern instance #3: I watched “Juno” last night and as I watched one of my 80s actor-hero’s, Jason Bateman, I thought to myself, “That’s how I want to age.” The guy is 39 and though he still looks young-ish, he portrayed his character with a quiet dignity that I found, well…attractive (don’t even say it!).
It occurred to me then that even though I don’t want to feel older, at the same time I know I am getting there and I wish that I had the same sort of dignity that I see in many of the older (and dare I say, more successful) men that I know.
Of course, then Bateman’s character almost made it with a pregnant 16-year old, after which his wife told him to “Grow up.” I was with him up till that point and then I had to just shrug it off.
Anyway, the point is that sometimes I want my cake and I want to eat it to. For instance:
Sometimes, I just want to get out and play a rough game of football with the guys.
I want to forget that I have a responsible job and just skip off somewhere and do something irresponsible (I have no idea what exactly…)
I want to just say, “Hey, screw you, and you, and you, because I’m tired of being the only person who tries to keep in touch with anyone anymore!”
I want to forget that right now, I have water dripping behind my gutters because I can’t seem to find a trustworthy gutter cleaning company that will risk their neck on that really steep patch of roof and I want to forget that it’s probably going to cost me an arm and a leg to fix something that should have been easily avoidable in the first place.
I want to sit down in my comfy chair with an adult beverage in my hand while I read a really good book; not worrying about whether or not I’ll be sober enough to tolerate the kids’ whining when they get home, or heaven forbid, have to suddenly up and drive one of them to the emergency room.
I want to lock myself up in a room, turn up the speakers really loud and play video games all day.
But then, sometimes I want to come home and hug my family and offer up a burnt offering to the “Old God” in thanks that I don’t have to “date” anymore (although admittedly, “new sex” would be pretty sweet every now and then). I want to skip the gym and instead, sit around and embrace the fact that I’m getting older and then I want to actually enjoy eating a decadent piece of pumpkin/pecan pie with Gran Marnier cool whipped topping.
Getting old sucks…and I still have a long way to go. At some point, my mind is going to start throwing punches that my body can’t back up anymore, and then, well, you might as well just shoot me. Cuz I HATE the way I look in fat pants!