I’m Just…an Old Man

I’m Just…an Old Man

It was a shock. A friend took a photo of me on my red four-wheeled electric scooter. He was kind enough to send a copy, and on the screen I saw an old man. The shock was that I recognized it as a photo of myself.

People that see me on the street, of course, see a bald head, a creased face, a stooped body, and thin, blood veined arms and conclude that this is just an old guy. They indicate that they have no intention of changing course, ever so slightly, to avoid bumping into this unstable person with a cane, so I stop, let them reorganize their trajectory. They seem to show some annoyance, and let me know that they have been inconvenienced, not by another person sharing the sidewalk, but by an old man.

Many years ago I spent some time with my father and heard him wonder about being ignored at the store and on the street. Dad, I said, the people around you look as young and agile and beautiful as they have always looked, but the difference is that these people see you very differently. Yes, he replied, to them I am just old.

Man, do I understand that now.

There was a time when people saw my father, and myself, as someone with wisdom, someone to be looked up to, someone with knowledge. In our old age we can respond to a conversation with some fairly good ideas, but people look around to a new authority in the group for correction or confirmation. Not only are we old, but our ideas are assumed to be irrelevant. OK, they probably are.

I was at a lovely dinner table and the group, two generations younger, were comparing notes on popular music and musicians. It was all way out of my league, so for comic relief I said that I had spent part of the afternoon listening to Mozat’s Requiem.

It worked.

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