A Letter From Dad
Hey there fellas. This is your dad speaking… well, actually, writing. It’s weird being old because you don’t know how long you’ll be young while your old. I think everyone tries to be as young as they can for as long as they can. There’s not much benefit in being old, senile, and decrepit. So, ya just carry on as long as you can until you can’t carry on. But who knows? Even when I’ve stopped carrying on, I might be living in my own world inside my head – a world no one else can see but me… who knows? You may one day think I’m senile, when I may young, dancing with some young ladies in a world that only exists in my head. Who knows?
You’re still both [reasonably] young. Your bright sparkle of youth, though, is fading like the bright green leaves of May turn dull and dusty in September. On the other hand, right after they turn dull and dusty in late summer, they burst forth in brilliant and vibrant autumn colors in October. That’s right before they croak and fall unceremoniously upon the ground, where the either rot, float away on the wind, or get sucked up in some noisy leaf-sucker… or maybe just swept to the curb.
It’s important while you both of your retain some sparkle of youth, that you gloat. You’ll see. It won’t be long before that one amazing morning you wake up and realize you’re old and getting older. When young people look at you and snicker or, maybe worse, to even see you or acknowledge your existence.
And even worse, on that day, you’ll face the realization there are things you’ll never do again – mostly really fun stuff – because you either won’t want to do them anymore because you don’t have the vigor… or your old body won’t accommodate you when you try to them. If you do push yourself, then you risk kicking the bucket smack dab in the middle of the action.
Yes! Laugh if you want. Getting old is not for the faint of heart or sissies. And it’s not too easy for dreamers like me. Life, my dear boys, is a tough dusty road that winds through hilly countryside. It’s full of hidden curves – and you never know when a curve in the long winding road of old age will be the last curve you’ll ever nearly negotiate.
But who cares? The only ones who care are the ones who are still walking down the winding road of old age. The older you get the more the obituaries mean to you. More and more you see the names of people you knew long ago – maybe in high school – who you still picture looking like they did when you last saw them fifty-five years ago… and now here they are – dead. And you read the nice things said about them in the obit, which you know are not true.
“Bill Bartlett loved racing, sailing, and horses. He was a member of The First United Church, the Grange Society, and respected member of the community. He will be dearly missed by his family and friends…”
“Bill Bartlett was a jackass!” I say to myself…
As you grow older and older and older, you’ll start noticing that some people get a kick out of reminding you of your birthday. As much as you try to forget birthdays after you turn 50 or so – some people just won’t let you. The get their kicks stomping on an old guy’s wishful thinking. I’ll bet you’ll find, just like I have, that those who remind you of your birthday are always much younger – people for whom age has no meaning… YET!
But one thing for certain – if they do live long enough they’ll pay for their cruelty. Life is fair… sometimes.
Yeah, you think it’s amusing watching me toddle along in my boring old life, reading under a tree eyes droopy and me fighting off sleep… or watching reruns of “Columbo” or “The Three Stooges” on old folks channels – channels where advertisers can buy a one-minute commercial for $149.95 or 2 for $199. No super-bowl-prices on these channels. Even Granny Edward’s Pie company can buy ads on these channels!
You just wait until you’re my age.
If you do end up watching those old-people channels like I do, you’ll find most of the ads are for drugs (prescription or OTC pain relievers) or burial insurance. You gotta love the Burial Insurance ads: “Foolin’ around your whole life, blowing money on chicks, booze & frivolous things? No life insurance? Not enough money in the bank to embalm your old carcass? Not even enough for cremation? If you’re between the ages of 60 and 85 we’ll sell you burial insurance up to $10,000 for a guaranteed low monthly rate. Rates will never go up! Call now!” [Fine print: We don’t pay a cent if you kick the bucket during the first year of your policy. We pay limited benefits if your croak during the second year. If you can make it to the third year, we’ll pay up, but only after your survivors fill out twenty-five pages of forms and provide 16 certified, notarized copies of your death certificate. Sucker!]
No embalming for me, boys. I’m going to save you thousands of dollars! Just cremate me and scatter my “cremains” in the forest in some lonely. lovely spot. Not that it will matter much to me or my cremains. But it is a pleasant thought for me as I pass through my “golden” years. Take the thousands I am saving you on body disposal and invest it wisely.
It’s later than you think!
Right now you’re probably thinking your old dad is losing it. But I can still craft a pretty nifty sentence, don’t you think? Who knows how long I’m going to remain lucid enough to write stuff like this? It may be a decade or a month. I’m not taking any chances, boys. I’m writing this now while I can!
I’ve seen people in nursing homes, and so have you. It’s not pretty. Should that fate ever befall me, I want your promise that you’ll never feel sorry for me, no matter what! Please save your pity. It’s just life. Sometimes life is fair, but sometimes it’s not fair at all. And there’s not a darn thing we can do about it. So relax. And if I should ever end up in a nursing facility, I implore you – DO NOT FEEL SORRY FOR ME. If you do, when I drop off, I will come back and haunt you both. Is that the floor squeaking – or is it dad from the great beyond. It it the wind? Only this and nothing more?
If you walk in to see me someday and I call you Ethel or Mildred or Bruce or Chantilly, just humor me. Act like you are who I think you are. You won’t be there long anyway. You’ll be in and out – because you have more important things to do!
I will keep drifting off to sleep while you visit with me anyway- heck sometimes I already do that, don’t I? You will see my eyes close and you will breathe a sigh of relief and sneak out – “thank goodness the old codger drifted off”. I know you will! It’s fine. I’ve been there and done that too – when I was young.
If I drool or am otherwise messy, don’t let it linger on your mind or trouble you. I was that way once before in my life – and so were you. I think most 6-month-olds drool and need diaper changes, right? So, if I get so old that I drool and require diaper changes, I can honestly say “Been there, done that”.
Remember if I do get so old I call you Mildred or Earl, or don’t have a clue who you are — things are not right in my head. But, boys, if I get that bad I won’t know it. You will, but keep in mind, if that time comes, my world will seem right to me. And that’s all that matters. In my mind, I just might be living in some seaside bungalow on Maui, drinking fancy rum cocktails with umbrellas in them, served by exotic lovely young ladies in grass skirts. No pity boys. Promise? The world I live in then may not be as bad as it looks to you. So don’t feel sorry for me no matter how far down that road I go. Humor me. Bring me chocolate malts whenever you come… no straws!
So, there you have it. Just like Jules Verne, I’ve given you a road map to the future. My future. and yours. I’m freeing you from the bonds of guilt… the guilt most people see when the find a loved one in a home, mind going, and heading ’round that final bend. And always remember this: If I live long enough, there may come a time when I don’t recognize either of you. I might even call you by the wrong names. Yet somehow, I am sure you will you both know, deep in your hearts…
That I will always love you.