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A couple of weeks ago, I was texting with my son, and he mentioned that he and the stand-up dame he’s been dating the last couple of years were thinking about settling down and having kids. He wanted to know what I wanted them to call me. “Grandpa, pee-paw, grandpappy? What?”
And that got me to thinking, I’m going to be an old man. The signs of the twilight that lies just beyond my horizon are already beginning to show. I sometimes watch reruns of 20+-year-old TV shows (Stargate SG-1, to be specific) I frequently launch the wrong app on my phone. And just this last week, I had a chatty conversation with a bank teller!
I’m not as old as Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, or Madonna, so there’s still time to decide what kind of old man I’m going to be. And time to will myself not to be an old fool like this pathetic, senile husk. I have time to think about how to grow into the best version of Old Me, but what version will that be?
Basic Old Man — Drive 10-15 miles below the speed limit at all times, in the left lane when possible, with a turn signal on. Refuse to adapt to any new technologies. Make gross noises. Yell at kids in my yard! Occasionally make racist statements (such as, “I think people should be treated the same regardless of skin color”) that will make my grandchildren apologize and say, “He’s from a different time.” Pros: Never GAF what anybody thinks. Cons: All-you-can-eat buffets are not healthy.
Crazy Old Man — This is the old guy who has an encyclopedic knowledge of conspiracy theories and a weird hostility toward squirrels. (“Lousy tree rats!”) I don’t have the follicles to grow a crazy beard, but I have firmly stated that once I’m retired, I’m wearing nothing but kimonos and dashikis. It’s a good start. Pros: My increasingly eccentric behavior would not be mistaken for dementia and my basement could hold a lot of social worker corpses. Cons: Might get elected to public office.
Creepy Old Man — You know, the old guy who leers at young hotties the same age as his grandchildren. Pros: Might get a job at the Lincoln Project. Cons: Might end up sharing a jail cell with Denny Hastert.
Crusty Old Curmudgeon — I could do this. Really easily, I could do this and become more cranky and foul-mouthed with every passing year. I could project constant anger at the world while deep inside lies a heart of gold. Pros: No one will be sad when I’m dead. Cons: Might end up ranting about politicians on social media.
Cringe Old Man — This is the guy who can’t accept that he’s old. He tries to use contemporary slang, but does it wrong. He seeks to impose himself into groups of younger people. Constantly insists “Age is just a number.” Pretends to like dub-step. Pros: Are there any?
Hot Grandpa — There are some old guys who make being old part of their brand and it works for them. The one that leaps to mind is 85-year-old supermodel Wang Dushen, the other is Colonel Harlan Sanders, who launched his fried chicken empire at the age of 65. Pros: Old and successful beats old, bitter, curmudgeonly, and creepy hands down. Cons: Extremely high probability of failing and ending up as Cringe Old Man.
Robert Duvall — Now there’s an old guy who’s doing it perfectly. But I haven’t earned the life to grow old like Robert Duvall. I have a toughness to me, but it’s buried inside, shielded by layers of deflection and self-deprecation. There are neither pros nor cons. I will never be Robert Duvall.
Nah, thinking about myself in 20-30 years, I think I’d kind of like to have that smug humility associated with elder Buddhist monks. That edge of a smile in the corners of my lips like I’ve meditated long enough to figure out the universe. I’m in on the joke, but you’d never get it without years of contemplation. That would suit me.
As for my future grandkids, I will insist that they address me as Ojiisan.Published in