Outside our apartment door, hanging on the mantle beside at eye level, is a magnet that reads: “A lovely lady and a grumpy old man live here”.
As I type these words, I am reminded of an old TV series I watched as a youth growing up in the isolated village of St. Philippe d’Argenteuil.
The Waltons was a drama focused on life during the Great Depression, where a family struggled together to make ends meet while somehow always maintaining their values.
It was a large family.
(They were fruitful and multiplied!)
At the head of the family were Grandma Esther and Grandpa Zebulon.
He was spirited, imaginative, loyal and loving.
She was prim, proper, no-nonsense and tough.
When annoyed with him (as she often felt she had cause to be), Esther would vehemently call him “an old fool”.
It was a phrase I often wondered about.
Doesn´t the acquisition of experience automatically preclude wisdom?
Or are there other factors that come into play as a man ages, like regret, pride and sentiment?
What causes a man, who should damn well know better, do acts of folly?
What causes a man, who has many reasons to be thankful, become grumpier with age?
The events of the past two days, albeit minor, have made me ponder these questions.
Frank Sinatra, in his famous tune “My Way”, sings:
“Regrets – I’ve had a few.
But, then again, too few to mention.”
Oh, if only I had done what I didn´t do…
Oh, if only I hadn´t done what I did…
These are thoughts that all of us have had, and may continue to have, as the years pass.
I hear these sentiments often from my male counterparts…
“She´s a wonderful woman, yet I wonder what if I had kept travelling.”…
“I love my children, but what if we had waited awhile before having them.”…
“I always wanted to visit Nepal, but now with the kids and the job, I guess I´ll never go.”
Somewhere in that great collection of books called the Bible is the phrase: “Pride goeth before a fall.”
How bruising to a man´s pride is the discovery that activities, once laughed at for their ease, now are no longer so simple.
I used to carry upon my back a fully-loaded-for-bear backpack without noticing it too much.
Today my back complains bitterly.
I could stay out with the boys cavorting til dawn and then do a full day´s work without complaining.
Not so much.
And damn that mirror, mirror on the wall, what happened to the fairest of them all?
I may have never been anyone´s idea of a top male model, but, damn it all, I had HAIR, nay, a MANE of hair, like a super sexy young Elvis Presley.
Now, in the politest of terms, I am tragically follicle-ly challenged.
As for sentiment, the older I get, the harder it is to throw ANYTHING away, as it reminds me of thoughts, events and feelings I fear I will forget should I fail to keep that old restaurant napkin, a copy of an old newspaper, the ugly old rock I found on the beach that day, etc.
Just yesterday I impulsively bought John Baxter´s Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light, not because I needed yet another book added to my, already way-too-large, collection, but because the cover reminded me of my own nights spent there.
Just yesterday a young lady of my acquaintance, barely old enough to be my daughter, gave me a simple heartfelt hug.
It was marvelous.
I did not want to let her go.
I want to believe that for her the hug was nothing more than a simple expression of affection.
I LOATHE myself for contemplating more.
In the cartoons, we often see an angel, flying above our hero´s right ear, counselling goodness and wisdom, and a horned devil, above the hero´s left ear, seducing with temptation and pleasure.
Somehow that damned devil never dies, never quits, while I think that poor angel must be getting wearier and wearier with age.
Fortunately, with age I have become more cautious, and with grim (grumpy) determination, I force my mind away from avenues best left unexplored.
I exorcise this devil out of my thoughts by public confession.
I grumpily admit now understanding the phrase:
There truly is no fool like an old fool.