Just about every one has a coming of age story. Most of those are poetic and bittersweet (and let’s face it, often a bit of a turn-on). Mine was neither poetic nor very sweet. I’m not sure if ‘turned-on’ was even in the same universe.
Just about everyone has a “growing older” story as well. Those can range from comic to bittersweet or a bit of both. I have a couple of those, but mine range from embarrassing to even more embarrassing to outright shameful.
The way I see it, in order to fully realize you’re rapidly aging, you have to take a heavy psychological hit and a pretty good physical hit as well. One by itself won’t do it. You need that one-two combination punch before you’re really knocked through the ropes and into official ‘old-fart’ territory.
The first punch I received was when I was thirty and it was psychological. My wife and I had been married for seven years and I decided that as an anniversary present I would buy her a gift certificate at a day spa. (Okay, I’ll admit, I had visions that after spending a good part of a day at a spa she’d be in the mood to ‘suitably reward’ me for the gift when she arrived home. By ‘suitably reward,’ well, you know what I mean. If we’re honest, most gifts have at least a vision of a return gift attached to them.)
I walked into the spa place and met a young lady at the counter. Yes, she was somewhat attractive. Yes, I sucked in my gut –but just a bit. She looked vaguely familiar. Like maybe I’d went to school with her or something.
Me: “You look vaguely familiar. Where did you go to school?”
Young hot chick: “Mountain View High.”
Me (arching an eyebrow in my best Sean Connery pose): “I thought so. What year did you graduate?”
Young hot chick: “Last June.”
And there was the psychological gut-punch. She was twelve years younger than me. Like a pinched balloon when the air squeaks out I managed a feeble, “Oh.”
Deflated, I staggered. But she was not done yet.
Young hot chick (who I now kinda hated): “Why? Did you have a son or daughter that went there?”
I’m not sure how I got out of the spa building. All I remember is staggering and thinking I heard a faint echo of laughter as I got in my pickup, but that may have just been in my head.
I recovered. I still bobbed and weaved and maintained my idea of youth, because I had not yet been dealt the physical blow.
That came seven years later. It was voting time and I went to drop off my ballot. I had my seven and five-year-old daughters with me. The ballot place had a short flight of five steps up to a platform. Because there were a number of cars there, I had to park away from the steps, but almost even with the voting window. I walked down, up the steps, back up the platform and dropped off my ballot (I’m nothing if not an involved citizen). That’s when a fateful decision led to the second, physical punch into old age.
I turned from the window. My pickup was right there with both my girls in the front seat. Why would I walk all the way down the platform, down the five steps and then all the way back up to my pickup?
Vaulting the railing would be much easier.
After all, it was only a drop of about five feet.
I envisioned my hand on the top of the railing, my feet gliding over as I dropped cat-like to the ground. I’d seen it done in countless movies.
I went for it.
My foot hit the top railing, my hand slipped and for a brief second I hung upside down, my foot somehow around the railing, my entire world turned over on its axis. I dropped down to the pavement, landing on my head and one shoulder.
The thing about the physical part of the psychological/physical-one-two-you-are-now-an-official-old-fart-thing is that the physical has a huge amount of psychological mixed with it. I hurt, but my overriding sense was one of embarrassment and fear that I’d just scared the hell out of my girls with my Olympic style moves. Before even checking to see if I was seriously hurt, I jumped up and looked around to see if anyone had witnessed my act of poise and grace. Then I looked in my pickup to make sure my kids were okay after witnessing the possible death of their father.
They were both laughing so hard they were crying. My elder daughter was slapping the dash and my younger daughter was yelling, “Do it again, Daddy! Do it again!”
That’s when I felt the pain. I limped my way to the driver’s side and got in. As soon as the door shut, I immediately grounded them from “The Lion King” for two weeks for laughing at me.
Hey, I never said I was a good father.
And it felt like the right old-fart thing to do.