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Coming of Age

One day, oh, 14 or 15 years ago, it was really a typical day in the very strange household I “headed.”  The kids were up – four of the six that were there – along with my true wife and extra one and it was going to be a great Saturday.  Grabbed a cup of coffee, grabbed wife #1 and kissed her – and grabbed a handful of her backside; snuck up on #2 and did the same thing.  As I went to my desk to read my email, my daughter was looking at me with a really weird look, shaking her head with a wry grin on her face.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked, typing in my password.

“Oh, nothing – congratulations, you’re a dirty old man!” she replied, unable to keep the full smile from her face.

Somehow, the jibe didn’t offend me; in fact, I felt as if I had finally reached a milestone in my life.

As the kids made their way out of the house, they said things like, “Be back later, Dom!” and went on their way.

Wife #1 asks, “Dom?  Who’s Dom?” – wife #2 has her face scrunched up into a mask of confusion.

“Oh, that’s me,” I said, turning to face them.

“Uh, they know your name isn’t Dom,” wife #2 says, rolling her green eyes.

“Oh – that short for Dirty Old Man,” I said – how I managed not to laugh remains a mystery.  “Our daughter says I’ve graduated.”

I laughed, wife #1 smiled and shook her head; wife #2 kept rolling her eyes but she was smiling as well and the day went on.

Thing is, my daughter was right about me and I’ve been a DOM ever since.  As you might imagine, it’s not in the sense that I’m roaming the streets ogling women, accosting them with lecherous stares, waggling eyebrows, and flashing them every chance I get… well, wait a minute, I do that to Linda a lot, come to think of it.  But, really, I’m not THAT kind of dirty old man, you know, the kind mothers warn their daughters about.  Oh, wait, yeah, that’s me, too – damn!  Okay, I’m not the bad type of dirty old man – how’s that?  Better?  Good – I really don’t want you to get the wrong impression about me.

I’ve worn this odd badge of honor for quite a while now – and it feels good.  Even people I’ve associated with have called me a dirty old man, mostly because of my ability to openly and shamelessly talk about things sexual.  To hear them say, “Wow, you really are a dirty old man!” wasn’t the insult it might have been for a lot of other men my age – it really did feel as if I had finally come into my own – and before I turned 40, too!

Today, at 54, I realized that I’m still the honorable dirty old man, with sex on my mind a lot and all with good intentions.  And I laughed softly to myself as the thought crossed my mind – then I opened WordPress and started telling you about it.  It’s probably not as funny as it was years ago but the feeling is pretty much the same; not exactly burning like a bonfire but more like a nicely banked fire, still very hot but just… nice.  I’ve been aware of this feeling since I got “promoted” – I shudder to think what I was before I did – and no matter what’s been going on with me, I’ve always felt the heat within me, never too hot, never too cool… just nice.

Remembering my “graduation” brings a flood of memories to mind, things I’m relieved to know I can recall; after my stroke, I realized I had some memory issues.  Oh, my mind is pretty much intact – depending on who you’re talking to – but there are huge gaps in my long term memory and my short term memory skips like a scratched record from time to time.  Even remembering the day of my graduation to Dirty Old Man took way longer than it should have; it popped into my head and it took me almost ten minutes to retrieve the full memory.  For me, this is very unsettling and it’s not like the “normal” memory loss the experts say people over 40 start to experience.  There are some things I just can’t remember; I know something took place – at least I think it did – but when I go shuffling through my memories, well, some of the folders are either missing or corrupted as well as the files that were in them, to use a computer analogy.

Like being a dirty old man, not sure if I’m liking getting old all that much.  I look in the mirror every morning and see the same face I’ve always seen… but not really.  The eyes are the same; I can look at an older picture of myself and, oh, yeah, I can recognize those eyes and I know that the lights are on and somebody’s home – which is good.  The face is mostly unwrinkled and unblemished; the most glaring reminder that I’m getting older is that shiny spot on the top of my head that keeps getting bigger and wider every time I happen to see it.  And the grey in my mustache and goatee – when I wear it – really kinda drives home the “old” part of being a dirty old man.

I miss my hair.  Today, I keep my head shaved; for one, I think I look so cool with a shaved head; for the other, well, I hope that it makes the shiny spot less obvious – but I don’t think it’s working.  Back in the day, I used to have a huge Angela Davis-type Afro; I had so much hair that I had to keep it braided more than I had my hair out.  My daughter learned how to braid and used to practice on me and, yeah, there were a lot of times I’d wind up with beads in my hair and, actually, it didn’t look bad although I’d often feel silly, especially when I’d look in the mirror and see that I had pink beads in my hair, my daughter’s favorite color.

I eventually got a jerry curl because,well, everyone else was doing it and the style looked good on me, if not messy and more of a pain in the ass to take care of than the Afro I had.  I was in the men’s room at work one day and looked in the mirror while washing my hands… and noticed I had some hair missing up top and that at the “old” age of 35, my hairline was receding.  I was devastated and the rest of my day was in the toilet after that.  I didn’t start feeling better until I remembered that my father was quite shiny on the top of his head before he turned 35 – but I saw the handwriting on the wall and wasn’t liking what it said.  What made me feel even better was to find out later that my youngest son had a spot way bigger and shinier than mine – and he wasn’t even 25 at the time.  I saw that the premature baldness hit my father, skipped me, my oldest son, and went straight to the youngest one – and I know he ain’t happy about that.

I was cutting my hair one night – did it myself to save money- when my then six-year-old grandson came running into the bathroom and grabbed my arm – the one holding the clippers.  He jerked my arm to get my attention, I turned to look at him and saw a large swatch of hair drop to the floor.  He laughed – I looked in the mirror and wanted to cry; his eagerness to ask me a question caused me to mess up my haircut and the only way to fix it was to cut it all off.

And, no, I didn’t get mad with him, if you’re wondering.

After I cut it all off, I decided to shave the rest of it off – and it’s been like that ever since.  But I do miss my hair…

I talk to my 75 year old mother about getting older – she laughs at me a lot, something she tends to do when I get around to finding out something she already knows, like all those mysterious aches and pains that show up out of nowhere.  Used to be a time we’d talk about raising families, work, stuff like that; now we talk about the best pain relievers, which ones to stay away from, flu shots, and doctor’s visits.  She talks about “Arthur” – and I think it’s funny that her nickname for arthritis is the same as her husband’s – you’d have to meet Art to find out why this is funny as hell.  Indeed, it took me a while to realize that when she’d say, “Damned Arthur is a pain in my butt!” she might not have been talking about her husband – again, if you knew Art, you’d understand this better.

As I’ve gotten older, my sisters, who are both younger, bust my ass about how much I resemble our father, who passed away in January last year.  What I know is that before I started getting older, I looked more like my mother than my father and, before he died, I would categorically deny the resemblance – a running joke in the family.  However, I did get a wake-up call about this getting old thing when my father died because I didn’t see him lying in the casket – I saw myself, minus my ever-present mustache and, oh, yeah, I was still upright and breathing.

Like a lot of other people my age, I tell myself that I’m not getting older – just getting better – but I am getting older (and still better) and I’m not sure I like it a whole lot.  My stroke aside, I know I’m the same person I’ve always been, up to and including still being a dirty old man – I just flashed Linda a minute or so ago.  I have the same sense of humor, the same sense of determination and purpose… but what really changed other than maybe the way I look?  I think I look good for a man my age, although, yeah, the abs aren’t as flat as they used to be, I’m probably just a few pounds heavier than my doctor would like, and I’m seeing grey hair where I don’t care to see it – and I’ve been plucking those damned hairs out of my ears for the longest time!

Ah, but the fire’s still nicely banked!  It’s one of the things that I think keeps me feeling “young” and will keep me feeling that way for a long time to come (I hope).  If anything, the fire’s a little hotter – not sure if I totally understand that one.  The experts say a man reaches his peak in his 20’s and it makes me wonder who they’re talking about because they can’t possibly be talking about me.  I’m hornier now than when I was younger – and I was pretty damned horny back in the day.  Still, having come of age, it feels… comfortable.  There’s a sense of certainty being in your mid-50’s, along with a greater sense of the clock that counts down against us all – but I don’t think about that too much if I can help it.

I don’t try to recapture my glory days because as far as I’m concerned, I’m still living in that space and never left it.  I can probably still slam-dunk a basketball – and without really hurting anything in the process… I think.  As you know, I’m still trying to make deals with my body parts affected by the stroke – I’m still pissed about that one – and the negotiations are ongoing and, yeah, progress is being made – but I really wish I could get my right foot to buy into the deal and stop holding out for a better offer; that way, I could lose the slight limp I have and I’d be better able to chase Linda around our home – and catch her; not gonna go into what I’d do when I caught her but, ah, you know I’m a dirty old man…

 
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Posted by on 23 July 2010 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Reality Check

There are times when I get to ranting and raving and having such a grand time writing where I have to stop and ask myself if I know what I’m talking about.  Right at that point, everything kinda shuts down until I’m “alone” with my thoughts and I begin a self-check of my thought processes.  It takes a while – there’s a lot of stuff that has to be checked – but usually, a day later, the reality check is complete and I certify myself as okay – meaning, I haven’t gone off the deep end.

Linda keeps me grounded – I think she even has fun putting me back in my place when I’m off on a tangent.  Still, the responsibility to be – and stay – grounded falls on me because, obviously, if I don’t do it, no one else can.  As I get older, I still find that I have a need to stay grounded – getting older doesn’t mean I get to coast into advanced age or even to my death because things get to the point where they no longer matter.  I get to reflect on my life and every time I do it, I find reason to remain grounded.

Doesn’t mean that “going off” ain’t gonna happen.  A lot of times, it’s fun to release the hounds and just go nuts doing something, although I’ve always tried to do this intelligently.  I noticed that during my writings about swinging, I was really started to become rabid about it – that mandated a reality check.  Yeah, I was having fun and, even more, I meant every word I typed… but as I worked on the last blog, I realized I was flailing away on the keyboard and grinding my teeth at the same time.  I was into it… and almost too far into it so it was time to ask myself, “What are you doing?”  Because of what I was writing at the time, I had to go back and re-read what I’d written to see if it made any sense.  Whew, it did, thank God!  If it hadn’t, well, I know I’d gotten my feet too far off the ground.

I was going back and tagging all of my blogs and noticed the tags I was creating were, ah, following a pattern.  It’s like when I started blogging, my head was in the gutter a lot – well, it usually is.  I know my thoughts and feeling where things sexual are concerned, which differs from what I know about it.  When I see people behaving the way swingers do about sex, well, it pushes a button on me and, whoops, I’m off and running… until I have to grab a hold of myself.  I have “issues” with people who make things harder than they need to be, probably because during my career, simplification was more important.  Even though I know people are different, there’s just some common sense things that swingers, in particular, seem to overlook in their quest to get laid – and I have big fun reminding and showing them how much they complicate getting laid, which is already hard enough even when you’re in a relationship.

So, for an entire day, I had absolutely nothing to say, which is what happens during my reality check.  I sat here in front of the computer with the blogging site open… and couldn’t think of one thing I wanted to say.  In fact, I was sure there was nothing to be said, but that was probably because everything in my head was on hold during the reality check.  The downside to that was that I eventually thought about writing an amazing Father’s Day blog – but by that time, I was ready to go to bed; I’ll take snuggling up next to Linda over pounding the keys any day.

I’m still kinda “recovering” from the reality check – this is the only thing I really wanted to write for the moment.  I’m settled, grounded, and it feels good.

Holla at y’all later…

 
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Posted by on 21 June 2010 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Getting Older

Last week, I was looking in the mirror during my morning ritual and deciding if I wanted to shave or not when something hit me:  I’m getting close to being 60 years old!  Well, not that close – I’ll be 55 on my birthday in September, but I had one of those weird moments where the person in the mirror wasn’t the same guy who lives inside my head.  It was a very strange moment and I wound up asking aloud, “Well, how old do you think you are?”

It was at that moment when a lot of things I talk to my mother about – who’s 75, by the way – started to make sense to me, especially when we talk about the aches and pains that pop up out of nowhere, like how my right shoulder was kinda stiff and sore.  As I stood there looking at the guy with the salt-and-pepper beard, I was wondering who he was – and what happened to the guy with no grey anywhere and a full head of hair.  It started to bug me a little because I had no answer to how old I thought I was.  As I write this, I think the guy in my head is in his mid-30s but I’m not really sure; what I do know is that he’s not 54.

My thoughts turned to one of those moments that I’d have to say will make Cinfulcinnamon dig out her flashlight again.  My father died two years ago and while I never like going to funerals, going to his really weirded me out because as I stood there looking down into the casket, I realized I was looking at myself – or what I’ll probably look like if and when I get to be the age Dad was when he died.  When you add on the fact that I had a stroke three years ago, you can probably guess where his funeral had my head – it was very, very unsettling.

The thing that kinda gave me a slap in the face as I looked in the mirror was realizing that while I know I’m getting older, I really don’t think about it.  When I look into my own eyes – those times when I’m not fighting with my contact lenses – I see eyes I’m familiar with, from the nice brown color of my irises to the intelligence that has always shined in my eyes, as well as the wisdom gained from having to grow up before I was ready to.  Looking at myself that way, I have no idea how old the guy is these eyes belong to; there are some people who, when you look into their eyes, appear to be ageless and maybe this is what I was experiencing that day.  It was like looking at myself, noting this very odd different in my head and realizing “I am.”  That’s kinda hard to explain – I know what it means but I can’t verbalize it.  The closest thing I can say about this is that it’s a confirmation that I know exactly who I am but, ah, I have no idea how old I think I am.

At some point, everyone gets asked the question, “If you could be any age, how old would you want to be?”  For the longest time, I didn’t have a definitive answer except to maybe respond with how old I didn’t want to be.  Some wanted to go back to their teenaged years and while that sounds nice, I can remember my teenage years, while awesome, are not years I’d want to repeat.  I finally decided that if I could be any age again – and I could do it knowing what I know now, I’d probably like to be 30 again; it was a time in my life when I was really coming into my own.

And maybe that’s where the guy inside my head is – he’s 30 and always has been… and I hope he always will be.  That dude in the mirror?  I know him and even with all the grey in his beard and mustache, he’s pretty cool – and not all that bad looking, if I must say so myself.  He’s the guy who can look back over all the years and see how everything he’s ever done is and always has been relative – he understands what being alive is all about and how nothing really changed – it just keeps coming and going around.

I was talking to Mom a few days after the mirror moment and was sharing it with her; she not only understood exactly what I was talking about but, as always, she thought it was pretty funny – and I even know why; it’s the same reason why I often laugh at my children over certain things.  My mother laughs because she knows what the deal is and, now, so do I.  Anyway, we were talking about being in pain since it’s a constant companion now for both of us albeit for different reasons.  While we gabbed about pain, pain medications and, in particular, the effect it can have on your mind, I came to realize that the 30 year old in my head needs the 54 year old in the mirror to deal with the 24/7 pain I have.  The 30 year old can’t stand it – it makes him nuts but the older guy, all cool and logical, holds everything together and just deals with it.

What Mom and I do agree on – and we do agree on a great many things – is that you never really understand the true nature of pain until you have it and you can’t make it go away.  Prior to the stroke, about the worst pain I’d ever had to deal with was having a toothache that just wouldn’t quit, or maybe the time I had a really bad reflux moment and thought I has having a heart attack – but I think that was more scary than painful.  I used to sit and wonder about pain when I’d read or hear someone who was in a lot of pain ended their life because they could no longer deal with it; to me, being alive is a great gift and I just couldn’t get my head around pain being so bad that you didn’t want to live.

Then I had the stroke and found out for myself – I really do understand it, just like I now understand that until you have to live with this kind of pain, you have no idea what it’s like.  Mom and I were laughing about us having this understanding and even she gave me props for my ability to not let the pain control me, which is easier now than it was a while ago – that was pretty fugly.  What dawned on me was that the 30 year old in my head has the tenacity and drive to hold on to life – and sanity – while the man in the mirror has the cool, calculating logic to understand what the pain’s all about and, knowing that nothing short of a miracle (or dying) is going to make it go away, always says, “Yeah, we can handle this.”

My mother happened to ask me how I keep the pain from sending me over the edge and I told her that, now, when the pain gets horrible and those thoughts creep into my head, I just think about my father lying in his casket… and everything’s better.  All I really have to do is think about the alternative and, yep, that gets my head out of my ass in a hurry!

While I’ve been talking about this as if I’m schizophrenic – and I’m not – I know there’s really only one person – me.  But, I also realized that, in a way, everyone is schizophrenic – just some more than others.  Naturally, this is because the way we think, the way our brains work to perceive reality and interpret it.  It’s that thing in every one of us that makes us say things like, “I’m of two minds about…” or “One part of me says…” and other such phrases.  We all talk to ourselves – some more than others – but, ah, when you do (even silently) do you ever get the sense that you’re having a mental conversation with more than one person – but they all have the same “voice?”

Things like this just amazes me – the human brain is a fascinating machine and it seems to me that the older I get, the more interesting it gets.  I can sit here and shift through years of memories – in seconds; the 30 year old thinks that’s so cool, while the 54 year old just rolls his eyes and says, “Duh…”  Haven’t even talked about the kid in me; what I know about him, well, he’s kinda crazy.  I think he’s about 15 – depending on the situation because I’ve had glimpses of the six year old, too; and since I mentioned him, I know I’ll be seeing him when we go on our cruise in November.  In fact, it was when I went on a ten day cruise in Hawaii that I got reintroduced to the six year old, who was having so much fun on the ship that the 30 year old was rolling his eyes and saying, “Dude, grow up, will ya?”

The six year old is the one who doesn’t have a care in the world; to him, everything is new and exciting and needs to be explored.  He’s also the one with the great sense of humor – the practical joker and class clown that lives inside everyone.  The 15 year old keeps the 6 year old in check – I think that’s all he does as far as I know; at 15, I was already mentally an adult – one who was still getting a handle on this change in thinking  – but a lot older than I should have been in that regard.  I think the 15 year old’s job is to remind the 6 year old that we’re no longer a child and there’s a time and place for childish things.  The 15 year old is the gatekeeper, letting the 6 year old out just enough to make living the fun thing it is, although I find that at 54, the six year old keep picking the lock and sneaking out.  The 54 year old doesn’t mind at all – he fully understand why this has to be; the 30 year old, well, I don’t think he’s all that happy about it at times but tolerates the fact that it has to be; the 15 year old keeps changing the locks – and the six year old just laughs his ass off and keeps on having fun regardless.

And all of these “people” are me.  There’s a 40 year old hanging around and I think we’re just beginning to compare notes with each other; I think this is the part of me that says, “Okay, things have really changed” and keeps track of those changes and reminds me of stuff that the 54 year old needs to be aware of.  I do know the 40 year old and the 6 year old don’t exactly get along with each other; the 40 year old is way too serious to deal with the kid in me and he’d rather not, even though, yeah, theres really no choice in the matter.  Oh, yeah; the 40 year old is the timekeeper and pisses everyone off by reminding us, “The clock is running…”

I’m sitting here laughing about all of this because, while getting older is some serious shit, it’s pretty funny if you’re able to sit down and take yourself apart as I’ve done here, which is pretty much what everyone does – they just don’t do it like I do.

I like the person I’ve become to this point and wonder what the older version of me is going to be like when, say, I hit 60 – early projections indicate that guy’s going to be pretty interesting.  I don’t like all the aches and pains – the stuff not related to the stroke but, as my mother tells me, that just comes with age and the more you stay active both mentally and physically, the longer you can keep things at bay.  Hell, she’s 75 and more active than I am!  She continues to lead by example; she’s my hero, my idol, my mentor, and I’ve always believe that if she can do a thing, so can I because, even at 54, I still have this need to make Mom proud of me.

What that mirror moment did was give me some perspective.  Everyone in my generation, with the exception of my brother, is still around and getting it done.  Of that generation, I’m the oldest – but the rest aren’t that far behind, well, except maybe my baby sister who’s still in her 40’s – Glynnis will be, ah, 44 in September.  I know we’re all getting older but, in a strange way, it doesn’t seem as if we are.  I think about my children and see them getting older, watching them arrive at times and moments and situations that I’ve already passed through.  When I think of my grandchildren, that’s when I kinda get reminded of either how old I really am or this weird time thing that goes on.  My youngest grandchild, Milan, is four; the last time I saw him, he was still literally a baby.  When my daughter-in-law mentioned Milan’s age, I was like, “Wow, where the hell did four years go?”

Where indeed?  You get older, are aware of the passage of time… yet time seems to stand still.  Or maybe, through some of that brain magic, time kinda gets stuck in certain places.  I know it’s actually a memory thing and it was pretty cool figuring it out.  The last time I saw Milan, as I’ve said, he was still a baby – and that’s the last image and memory I have of him in my mind and it hadn’t been updated until Miami told me Milan was four.  Now, I haven’t seen him – but my mind went, “Huh?” and kinda/sorta updated a few things, which made time shake itself loose and play catch up.

When you’re growing up, older people are always telling you what you should be doing at a certain age, how you should behave, stuff like that.  As I get older, I find that what I should be doing – and no one’s really told me this – is to keep having clarity of thought and purpose.  Well, maybe Mom did tell me by simply saying that I have to keep on keeping on.  It’s funny how, when you’re younger, you tend to think in years but, when you’re older, you somehow started thinking in terms of days, as in taking one day at a time and/or living every day as if it’s your last.

Man, I’m glad I don’t take that last statement literally – the six year old would be having a field day and the 54 year old would be explaining himself to a judge!  I’m at the part in my life where people are supposed to grow old gracefully; I understand the concept but that mirror moment had me wondering if I were really growing old gracefully or not, which is probably what got me asking myself how old I thought I was.  I know I’m getting older… and then again, I doesn’t seem as if I am.  It’s truly a matter of perspective and I find it all very interesting and exciting.  My brain’s running on all 12 cylinders, although one needs a ring job; the body, well, it’s got some issues, but I can still put on some music, jump up, and start pop-locking all over the place – like that commercial that comes on about arthritis – that is so cool because, yeah, I can do that…

 
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Posted by on 8 June 2010 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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