Clippings: Using age to one's own advantage

Funny how age kind of creeps up on you. And in my house, people are starting to think my age is getting kind of funny. My brother will turn 50 this year, and I am very close on his heels.

Hadn’t given much thought to my internal odometer until earlier this month when our son, Mark, celebrated what he considered to be a pretty noteworthy birthday.

Seventeen.

“I can legally get into R-rated movies now,” Mark said with a grin soon before blowing out (without having to use a lot of lung capacity) the paltry 17 candles on his birthday cake.

I have a writing callus on my right index finger that is twice as old as he is.

Who was it that once said, “Youth — why is it wasted on the young?”

Then there’s our daughter, Diane, who feted her 18th birthday last October. Truly a milestone occasion, 18 suddenly gave Diane the green light to do a lot of “grown-up” things, like voting (which more grown-ups should start doing), running for elective office and getting sued.

I dialed my own memory bank “way” back to 1980 for my 18th birthday and my first election as a voter. President Jimmy Carter versus challenger Ronald Reagan. I even got the added bonus of registering for selective service during the Iranian hostage crisis. These events fail to impress our two young adults, but when I tell them I can actually recall the moon landing, Martin Luther King and Woodstock, they gasp and look at me like I’m a grizzled sage who should be rocking on the porch sipping from a glass of lemonade.

My family makes sure I don’t forget about my “advanced” age and the special distinction of being the oldest person in our household.

Mark, and most recently Diane, have taken to calling me “old man.” My dear wife Dottie playfully lobs similar nicknames in my direction, all of which provide reminders that I’m 15 months her senior.

Well, I hereby declare to henceforth celebrate my age. I will do so by:

• Referencing my life experiences, whenever possible, in the largest units of time measurement possible. I’ve been alive for almost a half a century; have been a reporter for more than a quarter-century; graduated from high school three decades ago; and moved to Vermont during the last millennium. Sounds pretty impressive, until you do the math (I’ll just hobble away while you’re ciphering).

• Stealing my son’s chair when he leaves to take a phone call. Any complaint will be greeted with, “Don’t you want to give up your spot to the old man?’

• Starting as many sentences as possible with the phrase “Back in my day… ”

• Explaining any lost athletic challenge to a son, daughter, nephew or niece with the phrase, “Don’t forget, I’m more than twice your age.”

• Taking a pass on any athletic challenge issued by a son, daughter, nephew or niece with the phrase, “Don’t forget, I’m more than twice your age.”

• Wowing my children and their friends by telling them my grandfather listened to old-timers swap Civil War stories when he was a kid. This does not make me look any more wise or venerable, but it sure sounds cool.

• Slipping the words “whippersnapper” and “kiddo,” and expressions like “knee-high to a grasshopper” and “respect your elders” into conversations whenever I can.

• Asking my son to perform any household chore that requires lifting more than 20 pounds, lest his old man throw out his back.

I’m sure these new policies will present enough inconveniences to the younger set that before long, I will no longer be known as “old man.” All of a sudden, they’ll be telling me I’m too young to be delegating more work and making excuses.

Ah, reverse psychology and wisdom. … They come with age.

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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