Monday, January 18, 2010

Defining "Old"


      Millions of years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, i.e. high school in the 1940s, I developed my first concept of the word “old.” Old people were those who were slightly older than I was. When I was a freshman, seniors were old, and when I became a senior, college students were old, or at least older.
      The idea hardened at the annual alumni banquet, an institution which has long since been discontinued. At our banquet, three members of the class which had graduated 50 years previously were in attendance. We all decided they were “really old fuddy duddies” (ROFDs). Over the years I haven’t thought much more about the subject.
      Now however, I am nearly ten years older than those ROFDs were when they attended our banquet, so I have decided to rethink my definition. In addition, for several years my class has been having monthly breakfasts at a local restaurant, and I have found that my long-time (I almost said old) friends are knowledgeable, thinking and articulate people.
       I admit that sometimes one of the regulars fails to show up because of a hip replacement or gall bladder surgery, but those are only physical problems. While they are related to aging, they in no way relegate the persons to my ROFD category.
     Neither have I noticed any iPods or X-boxes at breakfast, although someone did bring in a cell phone a few months ago, and we used it to call an out-of-state member of the class in honor of her birthday.
      I once heard a little poem on the subject:
I don’t mind that I’m old and gray,
For I’ve been around for many a day.
But one thing really makes me weep:
My mind makes appointments my body can’t keep.

       Notice, the problem is with the body – not the mind.
      I can approach this definition problem from several angles. I could erase the ROFD concept, although I have carried it around for so many years that I hate to let it go completely.
      I could redefine “old” to be say, 15 years older than any age I happen to be, although I know some people in that age group who also don’t fit the category.
      I have noticed lately that young people do not speak the same language as those of us who have lived a few more years. Perhaps if we post-youths spoke their language, we would not be considered “old.” For example, suppose after one of my contemporaries says, “Have you heard what those idiots in Harrisburg are planning?” Then I go, “Hey dude, it’s like, you know, whatever.”
      Or perhaps not.



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