Friday, October 7, 2016
When Does Old Officially Begin?
It seems as though that all too frequently I’m getting abrupt reminders of the aging process. I speak of my own, of course. Sometimes these reminders are subtle but other times they come at me like a brutal slap in the face. Something happened yesterday that, to most folks, would not seem like a big thing at all. But, to me, it was that brutal slap I just mentioned.
It was a comfortably warm day—sun shining, winds calm. I got in the car to run a simple errand. My destination took me out on a scenic and winding farm-to-market highway for a few miles and the drive was pleasant—so pleasant that I began to daydream, both hands draped over the top of the steering wheel. I was suddenly yanked back to the moment by a feeling of closeness. I looked in the rear-view mirror and noticed a car tailgating me dangerously close. Following that vehicle were a number of others, looking much like a slithering snake. I was the head. A quick check of the speedometer told me everything I need to know as to the reason. The speed limit was sixty-five. I was going forty. It was a simple fix. I sped up to the speed limit and the cars began to loosen behind me. That should have been the end of it. Right?
Well, it wasn’t.
The episode brought to mind a time many years ago that I was riding along with my aging father on our way to town from the farm we lived on. He, too, had his arms draped over the steering wheel, seemingly oblivious. He smoked a pipe and had it clenched between his teeth, puffing methodically, having no concerns whatsoever . . . apparently. We were in a highway construction zone where no passing was allowed. The old rattle-trap of a pickup we were in rolled along at about thirty miles per hour. I turned to see a long string of cars behind us. Well, I figured that he just hadn’t noticed how slow he was driving. So, I offered a gentle reminder, “Dad, you might want to speed up a little. It seems we’re holding up traffic.”
In a way that only another farmer would understand, Dad stopped puffing on that pipe and turned his head slowly to face me. I couldn’t determine if he wanted to slap me or offer fatherly advice. In that moment, I could see it going either way.
He turned back to again look down the highway and resumed puffing on his pipe. I said nothing more. After a few seconds, “If they wanted to get there sooner, they should have left earlier,” he said in an uncanny calm manner. He didn’t vary his speed at all.
I remember becoming quietly angry at his total lack of highway etiquette and stewed over it the rest of that day.
Now, in my case, I did accelerate once I noticed how slowly I was going but I thought, as I finished my short drive, that all those people following me should have left earlier if they wanted to get there sooner. That thought gave me an age-reminding shiver.
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