Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

I’m inconsistent as “an old guy.”  I remind myself of a lot of people.  My granddaughter absolutely refuses to eat chicken, unless of course she wants to.  You never know when that might be.  Her Dad served chicken in a casserole.  She wouldn’t eat it.  I served it with Chop Suey.  She had three helpings.  Another friend says he’s a vegetarian, unless of course he wants pork bar-b-que.   I'm like that about being old.

I don’t like people treating me like I’m “an old guy.” Unless I want them to. Normally, I don’t enjoy people taking for granted that I can’t do things as well as I once could.  Even when it’s true (which might be most of the time).  However, I have to admit that there have been times recently when I enjoyed being “overlooked” because of my age.

Today I saw a young neighbor in his yard, digging a ditch in the pouring rain to repair some kind of sewer leak.  He was covered with grim.  Twenty years ago, not only would I have felt guilty if I didn’t stop and offer to help, helping him would have been expected.   As I drove by, my young neighbor was bending over the ditch with a shovel in his hands. I yelled from the car, “You need any help?”  He smiled immediately and his eyes lit up with anticipation. I knew he wanted to say, “yes, yes, yes.”  When he turned and saw who had spoken, he said, “Thanks, anyway, Bob, but I can handle it.”  A few years ago, I wouldn’t have asked.  I would have stopped and gotten out to help.  Today, I smiled thankfully and went on my merry way – having the satisfaction of offering and being turned down.  I may be old, but I was dry and warm.

When emergencies happen in our neighborhood, my house has that invisible neon sign that says “old man lives here.”  We’re never asked to help, even though neighbors do often show up on our back porch for conversation.  When we first moved here, all of us "back then" were in everyone’s house – repairing, fixing, mending.  Now, it seems we’re just around for parties.  Not a bad gig, actually.

I don’t like being treated like “an old guy,” except for those times when it’s more convenient.

Recently, my wife and I hauled a piano several states away to our granddaughters.  When we arrived, Parker had two young men to help him carry the bulky instrument into the house. I wanted to help too.  I didn’t want to be old then.  I didn’t feel old.

As they prepared to take the piano up several very steep steps, one friend supported the weight at the bottom while Parker and another buddy pulled from the top.  I couldn’t stand it.  I looked at the lone lifter at the bottom and was determined to help.  I edged my way into the equation and quickly could tell that I changed the way he had to balance his weight.

After a moment, I asked, “Am I helping you, or am I more in the way?”

He was so polite and kind.  But, honest.  “Actually, you’re in the way….SIR!”

I might have been offended, but I was laughing too hard.  The more I laughed, he started laughing.  The more he laughed, the harder it was for him to support the weight.  I moved back beside him and helped push the piano up the steps.

But every one of us knew if I had stepped away it wouldn’t have mattered.  The only thing I was lifting was my ego.

Date of Blog Story: 
April 4, 2008

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