… Who Doesn’t Realize He’s Getting Old
Unless one has children of one’s own, and if one is in reasonable health, one doesn’t really know one is getting old. Yesterday, my friend Bill Korn told me his own interpretation of my posting from a couple days ago, I Don’t Feel at Home Here, Either. The young, when they acknowledge my existence at all, seem surprised to see such a spry oldster doing approved things. Several weeks ago, I was about to enter a Trader Joe’s market when a younger woman flashed a delighted look at me, as if here was a decrepit old man doing the right thing. What was my reaction? I gave her the stink-eye, at maximum volume. She looked infuriated, as if I had stomped on her Yorkie or slipped her smart phone into a sewer grating.
What my reaction was saying was: “Don’t patronize me, you stupid beeyotch! I do not require your approval.”
But then, that’s me all over. I don’t cotton to strangers. When I am traveling in a foreign country and am approached by American tourists, I answer back in Hungarian. I think I’m taking after my Great Grandmother Lidia Toth (born in 1876), who could make a longshoreman blush with her swearing. She was one of those, “Who’re you looking at, Punk?” type of people, except her language was ever so much more colorful.
As a result, I am not likely to initiate contacts with strangers—with several exceptions. When I travel, I try hard to communicate with the locals and generally get good responses. I do not … ever … make … friends …. with …. American … tourists. Does that mean that I am anti-American? Not really, I just find it’s a waste of time. I even go out of my way to help foreign tourists who are obviously stuck in Los Angeles, which is not the easiest place in the world to get around in.
But even then, if anyone does reach old age, his heart weakens, his head shakes, his vigor wanes, his breath reeks, his face is wrinkled and his back bent, his eyes grow dim and his joints weak, his nose runs, his hair falls out, his hand trembles and he makes silly gestures, his teeth decay, and his ears get stopped with wax. He will believe anything and question nothing. He is stingy and greedy, gloomy, querulous, quick to speak, slow to listen, though by no means slow to anger. He praises the good old days and hates the present, curses modern times, lauds the past, sighs and frets, falls into a stupor, and gets sick. Hear what the poet says: Many discomforts surround an old man. But then the old cannot glory over the young any more than the young can scorn the old. For we are what they once were; and some day we will be what they are now.—Pope Innocent III, On the Misery of the Human Condition
It’s the Same Everywhere
An old Man,
Is loath to bid the world goodnight, hee knowes the grave is a long sleepe, and therefore would sit up as long as hee could. His soule has long dwelt in a ruinous tenement, and yet is so unwilling to leave it that it could be content to sue the body for reparitions. He lives now to be but a burthen to his friends, as age is to him, and yet his thoughts are as farre from death as he is nigh it. Howsoever time bee a continued motion, yet the Dyall of his age stands still at 50, that’s his age for ten yeares afterward, and love’s such a friend that like a flattering glasse tels him hee seemes farre younger. His memory is full of the actions of his youth, which hee often historifies to others in tedious tales, and thinks they should please others because himselfe. His discourses are full of parenthesis, and his wordes fall from him as slowly as water from an Alimbecke; drop by drop. He loves the chimney corner and his chaire which he brags was his grandfathers, from whence he secures the cubboard from the Catts and Dogges, or the milke from running over, and is onely good to build up the architecture of a seacole fyre by applying each circumstant cynder. When his naturall powers are all impotencyes, hee marries a young wench for warmth sake, and when hee dyes, makes her an estate durante viduitate onely for widowhood. At talke hee commonly uses some proverbiall verses gathered perhaps from cheese-trenchers or Schola Salerna, which he makes as applyable, as a mountebank plasters to all purposes, all occasions. Hee cals often to the Servingman for a cup of Sacke, and to that end stiles him friend; and wonders much that new wine should not bee put in old bottles. Though the proverbe be, once a man and twice a childe, yet he hopes from his second childhood to runne backe into his teenes, and so bee twice a man too. Lastly, hee’s a candle burnt to the snuffe, the ruines onely of a man, whose soule is but the salt of his body to keepe it from stincking, and can scarcely performe that too.—Wye Saltonstall, Picturae Loquentes (1635)