I stopped in at my friend Nick’s house to mooch his copy of the Sunday NY Times Magazine the other day, so I could make another futile attempt to complete the crossword puzzle. He answered the door and said, “How’s Merlin?” Then laughed. “He’s good,” I responded, warming to the idea of speaking in the third person about this old guy, who’s aging body I’m forced to get around in. The deficiencies are easier to take when I talk about “Merlin” as though he’s just some guy I hang out with and not me.
“Yea Nick, he’s okay; he’s having a problem with his right leg at the moment. He and his doctors are in the process of unraveling the mystery but I think he’s milking the issue – asking people to get up and get him things across the room, avoiding household chores yet finding a way to play golf, take bike rides, walk up Davis hill, go to coffee every morning, swim at the high school pool and other activities that miraculously don’t appear encumbered by his issue.
You can be more critical of yourself, more objective when you step into a third-person narrative and say things, like “Who does he think he is to write his lame opinions on every subject imaginable, with a lot of focus on the aging process, like he’s the first person to confront the situation.” [We all know in an abstract way that one day we will get old, but still, it’s a surprise when it really happens. Mostly, it’s so gradual we don’t notice, and then something comes along to slap us upside the head, shattering the denial process.]
I’ve written about many of these head slaps – the day my 11-year-old (at the time) granddaughter, Oriah, and her nine year-old brother, Atlas and I threw a football around in a game of catch and they had to move closer to me because I couldn’t throw the ball as far as they could – and then their older brother, Wylie, could no longer accept any footwear hand-me-downs from me because his foot was bigger than mine – and the horseback ride I went on in Zion National Park that left me lame and limping – and how I moved up to the senior tees on the golf course, then the ladies tees and now sometimes I just tee up in the middle of the fairway – and then a few weeks ago when I announced transitioning to a girl’s bike.
So, back to the third person frame of mind, the Old Coot is adjusting and just wants to report back to you youngsters in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, that old age is inevitable; you will face it soon enough, sooner than you think, but embrace it. And, try not to complain about it as much as I do. I mean, the Old Coot does. Use the third person and nobody will know that you’re talking about yourself. The guy who wrote this did.
Complaints? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.