Age-old Old Age

I met a gentleman recently who really made me take a step back. During my childhood, I was taught to respect my elders. I respected them so much, in fact, that I refused to question the validity and quality of their words and actions. Not always the best of scenarios, though I can say that I never had any truly terrible experiences as a result.

What I was left with, however, was the disconnect between what my upbringing had taught me and the reality of foolish, stubborn, prejudiced oldsters, of which we are all in danger of becoming without realizing it.

The man is very sweet in his own way, well-meaning, and would not knowingly harm a fly. But it’s the “knowingly” part that catches us unaware.

He is alone, having lost his beloved wife of nearly 60 years not so very long ago, so he makes sure to fill his time with friends and what family he has (they never had children and most of his closer relatives are deceased), which is very sensible on his part. In that, I think he succeeds very well.

He really should have listened to his wife, however, when she told him to be quiet, because he talks too much. She was right. He  really should take note. I could tell on this day that he wanted to talk, so I settled in, for the most part, to listen. After all, I’ll be old one day, if I live long enough, and who knows if I will want someone to just listen. In any case, he monologued for almost the entire two-and-a-half-hour impromptu visit.

Forgive me, everyone, for pointing out two things about his talk:

  1. He chuckled that his wife would spend an entire hour or two on the phone talking to her best friend, wondering incredulously what they could possibly find to talk about for that length of time. “Women,” he said, “just like to talk, talk, talk, bless them.”    !!
  2. He flat-out stated that the only thing men and women have in common is that they are both human, and “vive la difference!”

In the first place, if he really wants to point out how talkative some women can be, he shouldn’t spend two plus hours dominating any conversation. My mother-in-law managed to clean her desk while she let him run on at will. (Now I know how best to get her to focus…)

In the second place, is it possible to make people any more “other” than to very nearly state that they belong on separate space ships in separate galaxies due to their complete and utter differences? He wasn’t ugly about it, and I’m sure he had no idea how this was coming across, but there it is.

I could spend more time reliving the afternoon and all the amusing ironies that  arose in our household afterward—there was a decided ripple effect—but sometimes less truly is more.

For the moment, let it suffice for me to say that I do hope that I will keep my own counsel in future years, my hope being to avoid becoming the stereotype of a person of advanced age who trips through conversations like a toddler running on the sidewalk with his shoelaces untied.