Jules Molenda: Growing old keeps smacking me
Growing old is a combination of daily indignities -- huffing and puffing while putting on shoes, taking a morning blood-pressure pill, listening to your knees creak when you first get up and the occasional smack in the face like realizing that you’re the only person in the room who remembers Eisenhower’s first administration.
On Wednesday, a co-worker turned 60. Like most of her peers, I offered her some “Nearer My God to Thee” joshing until someone brought me up short by telling me that, despite her birthday, I was still the oldest person working at the office. Smack.
I’ve been a newspaper publisher for a quarter-century. When I began at the Sedalia, Mo., Democrat in the mid-1980s, I was considered young for the job. A decade later, when I moved to Rhode Island for a similar position, I received my first rude awakening to the fact that the world around me was growing younger.
My new editor was 20 years younger than me -- a change since the Sedalia editor had been a decade my senior. The young man’s life experience was sorely deficient. At least it seemed that way to me when he headlined the story of my arrival: “Veteran publisher joins the Times.” Smack.
In the spring of 1994, I received a call from a local American Legion post. They were wondering if we were going to have any stories tied to the fact that June 6 of that year was the 50th anniversary of D-Day. I assured the caller that we would, then strolled to the newsroom to make sure.
When I asked him, the editor thought for a moment, then said: “I guess that was a big deal, huh?” Smack.
My daughters have each blessed us with grandchildren, although they took their time getting to it. Both were past 30 when they endured their first pregnancies.
Being pregnant takes a lot of caution in the 21st century. The doctors forbid all sorts of foods and activities. My mother smoked, lived on caffeine, drank alcohol when she felt like it and enjoyed not watching her weight when she carried me -- just like all the other pregnant women of her era. The wonder is that any of us came out normal in those antediluvian days.
The newest medical thinking apparently includes a ban on hair dye during pregnancy. By the time both of my daughters ended their most recent confinements, they were almost entirely gray-headed. Smack.
My own hair, as I enjoyed reminding them during such times, continues to grow in almost entirely brown. I can see it’s thinning out a bit in the front, however. The barber leaves a patch growing in the center of my forehead that I comb over the naked scalp directly behind it. This works fine except in windy weather, when I look like a candle.
The last time all the family was together, my wife took lots of pictures of the grandkids. In several shots, the fellow holding them had his back to the camera and a bald spot on the back of his head that looked like a friar’s tonsure. I didn’t recognize myself. Smack.
Grandchildren and senior discounts are the only good reasons to grow old. My wife and I have five grandchildren and enjoy them every chance we get. But they’re also a constant reminder that we’re getting old.
Any one of them except the toddler runs faster than Granddad can. When we take them on a day trip, say to a zoo, the younger ones grow tired of walking. These days, old Granddad can only carry one for about 20 minutes before he’s ready for a break.
Even taking them for a swim is embarrassing. My swimsuit keeps going up in size every year. These days, I look like a shipping hazard in it.
Like most people, I have a set of family and friends about my own age. At get-togethers when I was younger, our conversations centered around our kids, bowling scores, camping trips and new babies. Today when we get together, we talk about our medicines, operations, the obituaries and new grandkids - at least the ones whose names we can remember.
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