Old men are not what they appear to be. They look weakened, wrinkled, frumpy, and a little dazed but that is not what they are at all. Inside is a spirit that can still run like lightning, pick up a rock and throw it beyond reason, and make some giggly girl tear off his chatty ring at recess in the Spring. He is old but still a boy deep inside.
The old buzzard can be a little grumpy at times and give off an air that he is not sentimental at all. Don’t be fooled, he would never tell you, but he would give half of his pension just to hug his mother again and feel the flabby part of her arm. He still relives the first kiss with the young beauty that became his bride and bore his children. The voice of his father still rings through the years and he would give the other half of his pension to go back and heed the advice of the ole man.
There remains an adventurous spirit deep within the old geezer because he longs for the days when he rode a horse at break-neck speed, jumped from a giant rock overlooking a creek while yelling “Geronimo!!” to the cheers of his stupid buddies, and burning rubber in his souped-up ’57 Chevrolet. When he happens to get an audience, he will tell those stirring stories of days gone by with a sparkle in his eye, not to be confused with the artificial lens from his cataract surgery. Those hearing the tales may think he is exaggerating; perhaps so, but there are some things he would never tell.
The old man is not as disconnected as he looks. He catches the nuance in the young men’s voices when they quip some smart aleck comment and snicker at the ole man. Yep, he may be somewhat deaf, but he hears more than some would know. He just shuffles away in his orthopedic shoes, mumbling something about, “Youth is wasted on fools…” For sure, if the years were peeled back for a while, the younger crowd would give him his due. Back in the day, he could hold his own with any lot of ‘em. You don’t monkey with a gorilla, especially an old gorilla!
Old women seem more content than old men. A woman takes solace in her family, the legacy of her children and grandchildren. The old man adores his family, but he dreams of winning battles, loving his wife as a young man would, building a bridge to somewhere, and conquering some unknown until it is known. For an old man, the book of his life could never have a proper last chapter; there is always something beyond his reach that eventually eludes him. He doesn’t die in defeat or despair but in his mind, there is always a mountain, and he desires to see the other side.
When old men die, the trumpet is blown and young men salute. When old men die, their wives quietly sob, their daughters cry, and their sons nervously cough. When old men die, God’s angels are dispatched to escort old soldiers home. Upon entering the gates of the splendor beyond, they see their reward of the battles, bridges, and mountains they conquered when young and old.
Harry L. Whitt