I would like to know when do you officially become old? I'm not talking about the number of years you've been on this Earth or the number of birthdays you've celebrated. No, I'm referring to the day you become a "fogey," as in "old fogey."
Is it the first time you hear your mother or father's voice coming out of your mouth? "Don't make me have to come back there. If I have to come back there, I swear I'll turn this car around!" Who said that? Mom? Dad? OMG, it was me!
Is it the day you find yourself running out of the house with curlers in your hair? Or perhaps for men, it's the day they commit to a hairstyle. You know the style I'm talking about...the one that they are sporting during what they perceive as the best time of their life so they continue to wear it decade after decade, long after it has gone out of style and male pattern baldness has set in, hoping that somehow people will still see them as the football hero or cool corvette purchaser they once were. Maybe it's when you're driving in the car with your kids and you realize, as they are belting out every last word to "Blah, Blah, Blah" or "I'ma be.." that you have no idea what the song on the radio is or who sings it and you find yourself thinking I'ma be changing the station over to Adult Contemporary or Classic Rock despite the backlash you might endure.
And of course one of my personal favorites to the gateway of old age is when you go to bed relatively healthly, yet you wake up and your wrist is sprained or your leg is, well broken. Funny, I don't remember engaging in full contact football in my sleep.
It seems to me that fogeyism isn't so much of an age thing, as it is a mentality. For the record and to make myself feel better, I would like to say that my nieces and nephews think I am the coolest aunt in the world. For rizzle. Not that I know what that means. They don't care that they are in their early teens and I am celebrating my 21st birthday for the 14th time. And I think we all know people like that. The grandma that is still hip enough to attend rock concerts. The uncle that still plays basketball. The ones that refuse to grow old.
We also know the other spectrum: Those individuals that are in their 20's yet act like they are 100. Their back aches. Their feet hurt. The music is too loud. You just want to look at them and say, "My God! Why don't you go home, take your Geritol, lay in your Craftmatic Adjustable bed, "clap" on your TV and watch Gunsmoke or Matlock reruns while you wait for the sweet kiss of death?"
Yes, some people are just born old.
This brings me to my parents. Now, I don't know for certain that they were born old, but I have never seen them act young. My father is 76 and has been acting that way since he was about 46. My father's favorite topic of conversation is his car. If you want my dad to like you, tell him you like it or ask him a question about it. Every time you get in the car with him, he will act like it is the first time you have ever seen it.
"See this? I can have the key in my pocket and just walk up to the car and the door will unlock. Your side should be unlocked. It's not unlocked.Why isn't it unlocking your side? The battery must be going dead. That's okay. See this? Push this button. The car starts itself. Don't even need the key. And see this button? If I push it a little man comes out, pats me on the back and tells me how awesome I am for buying this car." Same conversation - every time.
It gets even worse once he starts driving the car. Driving with my dad is like being stuck driving behind an old man in a hat - no place to be and all the time in the world to get there.
"Dad, my appointment is at 10am. Can you speed up a bit?"
"What's your hurry? You're always rushing me."
"Well the speed limit is 50 and we just got passed by an old lady with a walker."
"I know what the speed limit is.You're being very obstinate (his favorite word to use. Everything is obstinate. Me, the toaster, the government, you name it and in my dad's book, it is being obstinate.) I'm going 35. Your always rushing me. You'll make your appointment. Stop getting so flustrated."
Flustrated is a word my dad coined several years ago. It started out with the word flustered and was interchangable with the word frustrated. Eventually he got tired of having to choose between the two and voila' the word "flustrated" was born.
The part that really flustrates me is his incredible double standard. If you have some place to be, you could walk faster than he drives, but if he has some place to be...look out! Suddenly he is like Mario Andretti or Kyle Busch in the final lap and you had better get out of the way because he will run your ass down! The little man that comes out to pat him on the back to tell him what a great job he did for buying the car now serves as a score keeper counting the amount of "yellow" lights (wink*wink) my dad runs and the number of pedestrians that have to take flying leaps out of the way to avoid becoming road kill.
This however, is still better than driving with my mom. My mom doesn't like to drive, and she shouldn't because she sucks at it. I am convinced she has the brake and the gas pedal confused. At any given moment, even though there will not be a person, car or traffic light within a 100 mile radius, she will hit the brakes narrowly avoiding some pedestrian, squirrel or other invisible object. I always recommend taking a Dramamine and a barf bag if you are going to get in the car with mom. Once, while my best friend and I were driving behind her, she infuriated my friend so much, that she could no longer contain herself, "OMG! Would you freakin' drive you big Brake head!" Since that day we have affectionately referred to my mom as a "Brake head."
If you're the one driving, she is even worse. For no apparent reason, she will make oh crap sighs and grip the passenger side door handle making you think a car is about to plow into you, causing you and anyone in the car behind you to slam on your brakes. If you say something to her about it, she claims she has no idea what you are talking about even when you point out the fact that she is still white knuckling the door handle.
Yes, it is always an adventure with Mom and Dad. They fight like cats and dogs - angry, rapid cats and dogs. And of course one of the things that they fight about is the car. This is another one of those old people fights that I just don't get. My mom will try to sway me to her side by explaining the argument. She'll say something like, "Your father is in the garage again with that damn car." I know what you're thinking. He must be working on the car. Nope. He is just in there sitting in a lawn chair with a beer in his hand and the garage door open next to the car. This antagonizes my mother for some reason. I have yet to determine why. She continues, "So, he just sits there."
"Did you want him to do something?" I ask, knowing she just woke up from a nap and wasn't planning on spending quality time with him.
"No," she changes her focus. "Can you hand me the thing off of the thing?"
Ah yes, the thing off of the thing. For years I tried to determine exactly what this was. I would try to engage her in a game of 20 questions: the purse off of the counter? The remote control off of the couch? She'd always look at me like I was stupid and say, "You know..." I didn't. Eventually, I gave up and just began bringing her random things.
I handed her a lamp off of the end table. She looked at it puzzled for a minute then asked, "Why are you giving me this?"
"I thought that's what you wanted," I replied.
She went to the cupboard, grabbed the paparika off of the Lazy Susan (yeah, 'cause I would have guessed that!) then instructed me to go ask my father something she really didn't care about that was code for go see what your father is doing.
I headed out to the garage, where my dad greeted me with a smile and a "Hi, honey." I asked him what ever irrelavant thing my mom wanted to know.
"You know she is mad at me 'cause I'm sitting out here right?" he says thinking he is whispering, only he is mostly deaf so it is loud enough my mom and anyone within 10 blocks to hear.
"Why?" I ask.
He waves his hand and says, "But I'm not going in 'cause I don't want to hear it."
Hear what?!? What is this fight about?
"Did you ask him?" Mom is now standing in the door way that connects the garage to the house. Both are giving eack other a look.
"Well, this has been fun, but I have to go," I announce, pulling my keys out of my pocket.
"You're leaving?" they ask, both realizing they have scared off their buffer. Mom hugs me and returns back to the kitchen, giving dad one last dirty look as she leaves.
Dad confides in me that he will stay outside for another hour or so, just because. As I begin to walk away, he calls me back over. "Hey, did you see this? Key is in my pocket, but the door unlocks."
"That's great, Dad," I say smiling as I get in my car and ponder whether they have been married for over 50 years out of love or just to spite each other. I begin fooling with the radio, flick on the Adult Contemporary Station, start rocking out to my '80's music and hope to make it home before my night blindness sets in. Oh goody! I remembered my glasses. As I put them on, pull up to a light and break into my best Steve Perry, "Don't Stop Believeing" impersonation, I notice the teenage girl next to me has her window rolled down and is motioning for me to do the same.
"Ma'am, do you know where..."
She called me ma'am. I'm officially old.
It's all very flustrating.