SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Just Having A Senior Moment



October 12, 2010

Ketchikan, Alaska - When folks get to be my age, they start to use the O word.

jpg Dave Kiffer

No, not Ohmy gawdthat prescriptionis reallyexpensive or even“Ohno Icant holditany longerwheresthe bathroom”!

The word on their lips is simply "old."

It's more of a surprise thing. One minute they are in high school or enjoying their early thirties and the next minute their knees aren't working and they have to put the newspaper half way across the room to read the classifieds. (The fact they are even reading classifieds means they are old. Only old people read the classifieds, the legals, the obituaries and Garfield).

Sure, it's a gradual process from dewy to decrepit, but all of them somehow seem surprised by it all.

Over and over again, I hear them say "when the heck did we get old?" Notice, they say “we” because no one actually would admit that they personally have gotten old. It’s just funny that as a “group” we are no longer spring chickens. Whatever one of those is.

It reminds me of that Hemingway quote where Mike Campbell in the Sun Also Rises says he became bankrupt “gradually and then suddenly”.

Same thing with becoming old. “We” are all gradually and then suddenly old.

Yet more than most people, I can tell you exactly when I became old. It was September 15, 2010. In Petersburg. How do I know? I'll get to that in a minute.

I have to admit that unlike some of my peers I did see it coming. There was a point in my early 40s when I noticed that some body parts weren't working as smoothly as before.

I'd get out of bed in the morning and things would snap, crackle and pop for several minutes as I went about my morning constitutional.

That has continued to progress in such a manner that I can do a wonderful Walter Brennan walking impression every morning for at least an hour until things warm up. Without even trying.

Around the same time, I noticed that I had reached that stage in aging where I was invisible to teenagers. You walk by them on the street and nod a pleasantry and they look right through you.

This is always hard because in our heart of hearts we all still think we are 16. Heck, somedays we still feel 16. But what is painfully clear is, we obviously don't look 16 anymore. At least not to people who really are 16. Go figure.

Of course the point was really driven home a few years later, when one of my music students guessed that I was 35 and then she screamed when I told her how old I really was.

"Mr. Kiffer," she howled. "That's how old my grandmother is!!!!"

Considering I went to Schoenbar Junior High with her grandmother, that's not a stretch. But it?s really not something you really, really, really want to be reminded about.

And then there was that little matter of the eyesight taking a dive the minute I turned fifty. Really, it did. I swear that the day I turned 50, my 20-16 fighter pilot eyesight went poof.

To be replaced of course, by the inability to read instructions on personal electronics or anything smaller than a "Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor" sized headline in the local paper anymore.

Once upon I time, I could spot individual trees on a mountain many miles away. I can still see the trees, but the mountain is now a fuzzy off-green blur.

And when it comes to reading anything, do the numbers +1, +1.5 and +2 mean anything to you? They do to me.

Yeah, I digress. I really, really, really digress.

By now you have forgotten all about September 15, 2010 and Petersburg. Boy howdy, I wish I had too.

Anyway, I was at a banquet and I was sitting with a young woman from Ketchikan who happens to be in her early 30s. There were some empty seats across from us and a gentleman who is connected with a prominent statewide election campaign came up to me and asked if the candidate - who was also at the banquet - and his wife could sit with us.

I'm a pretty accommodating guy (for an old fart) so I said sure. I had met the candidate's aide earlier so he knew who I was, sort of.

Shortly afterwards, the candidate and his wife were settling in across from us. The aide then loudly introduced us.

"This is Mayor Kiffer from Ketchikan," he said gesturing toward us. "And this is his wife, uh I mean, his daughter."

Wow, in one swell foop, I officially became old. Okay, to be honest the young woman next to me is a very young looking 32. But there was no question I had now become a very old looking 51.

I explained that young woman with me was neither my wife nor my daughter. But the damage was done.

Later in the evening, I was told that my "daughter" is "very nice."

Okay, I get that chronologically I am old enough (just barely) to have a 32 year old daughter. As I noted before some of my best friends are "grandparents." But sheesh, the campaign must be angling for the AARP vote.

Naturally I reacted in a mature manner. I went out with a bunch of 30 somethings after the banquet and had several adult beverages, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not keep it going past midnight.

I also discovered why there is a little tiny warning (like anyone can read anything that small) on my blood pressure medicine encouraging me to limit my alcoholic intake.

In the words that we often use to “guide” my nine-year-old son, Liam: I made a “bad choice.”

So there you have it. I am now officially a geezer.

And if you'll excuse me I have to being going.

There’s a rerun of "Matlock" that I don't want to miss. When folks get to be my age, they start to use the O word.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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