Observations of an Old Man


My Dad is always proclaiming that he’s reached an age where he stopped caring what other people think of him in public. It’s a bit of a source of humor in our family, as he is many years away from being considered an old man, but his next step is reaching a point where you back out of the driveway without looking. Doctors will tell you this is the behavior of an aging mind and diminishing senses. What is this belief grounded in, science? Ha! I contend that old people know exactly what they’re doing when they defy appropriate social behavior. And they ought to be able to. They’ve spent their entire life hurdling challenges and adapting to variables they didn’t see coming. And after all their hard work and contribution they’ve earned the right to stop changing and do things their way. Everyone else needs to get on board or get out of the way. As a young man I find the behavior of an old man perplexing, hilarious, disgusting, but nonetheless fascinating. Here are just some of the observations of an old man that I’ve put together.

He has the woman of his life; the one that’s kept him on the straight and narrow and given him his reason for just about everything. He values her more than she’ll ever know. He adores the fact that he can put “beer” on the shopping list and she doesn’t ask what kind. So if he is uncomfortably gawking at a voluptuous, well endowed young blonde because she reminds him of a young Jayne Mansfield, do not be disturbed. To put it metaphorically, he’s a man and he loves his car very much, but that doesn’t stop him from watching a Corvette drive down the street.

He maps out his entire day by staring out the window for a combined 3 minutes. This is typically during a grand 4:30am breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. A breakfast like that is nearly impossible for most of us to make daily, but an old man has it ready for him every morning. If they have to do something quick, it’s brown, it’s in a bowl, and it’s next to half a grapefruit.

Church on Sundays calls for triple pleated pants. If there’s a way for more pleats he’ll take it. Other days will be thicker than normal khaki pants and black dress socks no matter what shoe. He hasn’t preferred wearing jeans in 25 years. He does not wear any shirts with printed words or logos on it. The only exception is a polo embroidered for a club membership or alumni status that was given to him after a pancake breakfast.

Farting in public isn’t even a hesitation. He doesn’t blink twice before letting loose and if you’re in the path of his bran filled destruction, it’s of no concern to him. If he can’t control the need to pee three times a night, what makes you think he’s going to control exploding a room during the day? He also knows that he’s allowed to smell. Most people expect an old man to emit a scent of farts, public library index cards, or after shave that smells of equal parts gasoline and talcum powder.

He has an unusual preference for walking around completely naked in the locker room at the local health club. He and other old men converse and lounge around like it’s an old school barber shop…a totally naked, hangin’ out there barber shop. Where’s his towel? Around the neck of course. He spent a lot of his life trying to be understood and when you’re naked, there’s no misunderstanding. What you see is what you get; take it or leave it. So if there is a place other than his home to be completely naked, thus completely understood, he’ll prefer to air dry, thank you.  

After a cholesterol laden 5:30 dinner the night calls for a Manhattan and some quality time with the Mrs. They’ll talk about the kids (they never stop worrying) and how the tire pressure in her car is feeling a little low, but if they can make it past 8:00, it’s time for their favorite TV programming. He refers to the network channels only by their local call letters. It’s not NBC, its WLWT. ABC is only WCPO. The exception is CBS. He’s more apt to remember it as CBS for two reasons: Nobody did the news better than Walter Cronkite and he likes the CBS crime dramas because they’re the only shows on TV where remembering what happened last week isn’t necessary. It’s murder – initial suspect – new suspect – back to initial suspect – book ‘em; Time for bed. When you’re old, you don’t want to be bothered with anything that requires more investment than that. 

The rest of his day is filled with slow, but extremely dangerous driving, avoiding drinks of water, a dash of racism, the desire to punch the teenage punk neighbor square in the face, and naps breathing with his mouth wide open. He is an endearing character. I understand that I shouldn’t chalk up these stereotypes to senility. No sir. This is a calculated and brilliant application of liberty by a man who is far more accomplished and respected than I, even if he’s standing there in the locker room butt naked with his baby arm hangin’ in my peripherals.

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