Kirby: Use signs of aging to your own advantage
For Easter, I shot a teddy bear out of a cannon in my backyard. All eight of my grandchildren were present. They loved it.
It was messy. There's not a lot of mass to a stuffed animal. When the gun went off, Teddy only traveled 100 feet, but he went there in 200 directions.
While happy grandkids ran to line their Easter baskets with Teddy's drifting guts, I overheard Daughter No. 3 talking to Daughter No. 1.
"Yeah, he's getting weirder. We have to watch him closer."
It was a comment about my advancing age; the first of what will be many observations regarding my declining lucidity. In a couple of months I'll be six decades old. Not a geezer yet, but definitely an increasingly troublesome coot.
The thing is I know I'm getting weirder. Age-related strangeness is creeping in. I confuse my two grandsons with each other, I forget the names of my granddaughters and I can't remember which bit of advice I've already given them.
"Papa, you already told us we're not supposed to mail poo to the president" is the most recent reminder that I may well be repeating myself to the point of annoyance.
People will tell you that age is just all in your mind. These people are liars and/or idiots. Old age isn't just in your mind. It's also on your face, in your joints and in the mouths of your ungrateful, smart-ass children.
I understand the physical part. I have undergone more than a dozen reparative surgeries in my life for stuff that I (or someone else) did to me.
I wake up and am painfully reminded of all of them car crash, cliff fall, parachute, self surgery(s), explosion No. 6, fight, ricochet bullet, etc. while I gimp toward the bathroom.
Painful as that stuff is, I can handle it. I earned it. I'm even OK with what I find in the bathroom. I've grown accustomed to the gorilla's armpit I see in the mirror.
It's the loss of stature among my children that troubles me most. Where I used to be handled with care and respect, I'm now just being handled.
If I'm sent to the store to pick up things for a family dinner, not only do I take along a written list now, but I'll get a phone call while I'm at the store to make sure I haven't accidentally thrown the list away.
If I get asked to watch the grandkids, there's a growing suspicion that it will be the grandkids that end up watching me.
Daughter: "Was Papa good while I was gone?"
Any grandkid: "He said that hole in the fence was already there."
There's also the assumption that I can't be trusted with reality, like my memory might be slipping.
If I offer a bit of sage advice based on the wisdom of my years, every small head in the room will immediately swivel in the direction of grandma for verification.
Grammy: "What do you guys think?"
Chorus: "There's no such thing as a ghost pig!"
Finally, I used to be the one in charge but now I'm the one getting lectured and grounded.
Daughter: "How many times do I have to tell you about letting them play on the roof?"
Me: "I don't know. A billion?"
Wait a minute. Maybe this isn't as bad as it sounds. It's entirely possible that there's something to be gained in this inevitable slide into coothood.
Managed correctly, I could get to the point where I no longer have to even pretend to be responsible. I'll just be old. If that isn't a great way to get even with my kids and wife, I don't know what is.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.