I talked to my friend Lois the other day. She was telling me how she is orchestrating a skit for Talent Night at her church. “It’s silly,” she said. “It’s a skit that I have done years ago with my family.”
What caught my attention was the fact that Lois is selling this idea to a group of similar older folks by asking, “Who can get down on their knees?” Only two out of 10 said they could get down on their knees (and, I suppose could get up again). Well, that was all Lois needed because the skit calls for two folks to be animals. She also told her church group that she is not telling them what the skit is about because they have to be “spontaneous.” On top of that, Lois is working on what the “Choir” will sing. I have the inside scoop that Lois is writing alternative rhymes to common ditties, such as Old MacDonald had a Farm.
Now think about this, here is a group of elder church members who are willing to participate in a skit when they have no idea what it is about, agree to be spontaneous, get down on their knees in order to be animals, and sing farcical words to familiar melodies in front of the church congregation!
Lois made the point that at a certain age it no longer bothers us old timers to join in comical entertainment. Why should we care how we are perceived at this late stage of our lives?
So, when I read Tim Hoyt’s, latest story, Playing with Young Minds, under his weekday missive, Story with Morning Coffee, I thought of Lois and her giddy church group. Tim’s story is silly, too, but underneath the seemingly simplistic premise is a profound lesson about growing older.
Stories for Morning Coffee and No Eggs
by Tim Hoyt
~Playing with Young Minds~
“Age is just a number.” I hear that all the time, mostly from men and women who are doing pretty well in spite of knees that don’t think about running a mile any longer and chests that keep on pumping in and out figuring, with proper attitude, they’ve got plenty more good days.
“Yeah, and it’s a big number,” I say back to anyone who implies that being eighty-six is anything like being forty-six. Sometimes, I devise devilish mind experiments with them in giant glass test tubes.
I understand attitude. Attitude is everything when you’re eighty-six.
I’m Samuel if you want to call me something. Samuel Perkins. There are a number of things I like about being old. I like the respect I get from most young people. They call me “sir.” That’s kinda sweet. In my twisted mind, which is short on synapses and long on memories, “sir” translates to “Yikes-a-geezer.” But they mean well. They offer to carry my groceries. I let them sometimes. Occasionally, when one of their tribe is particularly obsequious, like they’re trying to earn a merit badge or something, I’ll hand them five dollars and say, “Here’s five dollars. Go turn it into ten dollars.” Everyone my age got that story beat into them in Sunday School. Youngsters under forty haven’t a clue. But they leave me alone. “Yikes-a-geezer” is in a foul mood today, they think, and they walk quickly away, probably rethinking the merit inherent in Social Security and Medicare programs.
So, what do I want to happen today? Today, being typical of most days. I want most days to be atypical. I want life to jump up and smack my behind and surprise the daylights out of me.
This past Easter, Patrick, my buddy for so long, we forget how we met (not really – that’s just something we tell the Yikes-a-Geezer crowd) and I walked down Central Street holding hands. Patrick wore his bunny suit. He skipped and carried a basket of candy which he passed out to gawking little kids. I was his handler. Patrick-the-Easter-Bunny, obviously, didn’t talk. I would say, “Now, now, Easter Bunny, we must visit all the children before midnight. Dad’s laughed. Mothers just stared at us with pity. Kids were delighted.
Why on earth do we do things like this? Because we don’t give a rip what anybody thinks. That’s not entirely true, but it is pretty true. Patrick and I made our marks. Each of us got an education, made a good living, married, raised a family, paid the mortgage, volunteered for fund-raisers, and a lot more. We contributed.
At eighty-four and eighty-six, Patrick and I are secure in who we are. The self-doubt boat docks in a younger neighborhood now.
Now, we can be Easter Bunnies (I wore the suit last year). A few months ago, I was roaming through a re-sale store and spotted an old guitar missing some strings, and a damaged ukulele. Patrick and I put on a street concert. Our sign said, “Lessons Available, Cheap.” Such fun. And no self-consciousness whatsoever. That ship sailed long ago, too.
Patrick asked me if I would like join him and ride our bicycles in the Naked Pride Parade this year. He’s making that up and he knows I know he’s making it up, but I say, “Sure, what should I not wear?”