The Paregien Journal – www.paregien.com – Issue 356 – July 6, 2017
The Joy of Aging & Other Lies
Okay, buckeroos and buckerettes, make sure your butt is firmly planted on your saddle and your boots are in your stirrups, and your age-spotted hands and arthritic fingers have a firm grip on your horse’s reins. We are about to take a ride down memory lane.
Only this won’t be your Grandma’s memory lane about all the veggies she and Grandpa used to gather from their big garden out back and how she “canned ’em” (i.e., pressure cooked them and put them in quart jars) and stacked in the basement to be enjoyed some cold day in January. It is not about Grandpa’s musings about how unusually large the fish were that he used to catch in just a few hours at the lake. Nope, none of that stuff.
This little essay is about the here and now, about what a short time it took we old geezers to get from wherever we neaked through high school to the place far away where we live and how things have changed 360 degrees from then to right now.
So I’ll say like they do on cable TV just before reporting on some awful story, “A fair warning. The content of this next report might be upsetting to some.” Yeah, right. Like to 99.9 percent of people with at least half-way functioning brain matter.
Let’s start with this little book:
1,003 Great Things About Getting Older
My wife Peggy, otherwise known as the World’s Greatest Optimist (aka “sweet thing”) gave me this little book a while back. I thought it was a joke book. You know, it says “1,003 Great Things About Getting Older” but you open it up and the pages are blank. Sorta like that one “Everything Your Daddy Told You About Women But You Forgot.” But, no, this one actually has pages filled with stuff.
Lisa Birnbach, Ann Hodgman, Patricia Mars and David Owen had their fingers in the pie when it came to compiling these gems of politically correct wisdom. So here are a few sayings to help you get through your first cup of coffee. My comments are in the brackets.
**** It doesn’t take so long for summer to come again. [Not a good thing here in Florida — SP]
**** You’ve paid off your student loans [unless you’re a doctor or a lawyer — SP]
**** You receive mail every day, even if it’s only catalogs and bills. [Yeah, and most of the catalogs are from nursing homes and hearing aide companies. — SP]
**** Your arthritis makes you less likely to lose your wedding ring. [Wrong. I lost mine while frolicking at the beach. “Flrolicking” at my age means wading knee-deep in the water when it is still cool (70’s) to avoid shock to the part of my anatomy which actually probably needss shock treatment — SP]
**** All moral issues are conveniently black and white. [Right. Except those which are not — SP]
**** Weekends suddenly have meaning. [Hey, weekends slip in and out like a thief in the night. I stopped wearing a wristwatch when I retired. Now that we’ve been retired in Florida for four years, I’m also gonna give up my calendar — SP]
**** Dental implants let you eat corn on the cob, again. [Thanks, but I was robbed by my last two dentists. So I’ll just sip soup through a straw. — SP]
**** By age 74, refilling the bird feeder is a good morning’s work. [That or changing a flat bicycle tire. — SP]
**** By age 88 you can still identify half the people in your photo albums. [Ah, ha. Got you there. I have converted most all of our photos to digital images, complete with the names and locations of the subjects. That is what has kept me out of the pool halls most of my life. And most of ’em — well over 13,000 — are stored not only on my computer but also online on my FLICKR account which has 1 Terrabyte of storage — SP]
**** By age 100, all your enemies are dead.
**** A little sex goes a long way. [Darn it, speak up. Your little grandson Rex does what? — SP]
**** People get out of your way when you drive down the street. [Only the smart ones. — SP]
Men Will Understand This One
All Too Well
My cousin Jerry R. Paregien is my favorite patriot-in-exile from California. He and his wife have lived about 20 years now on a mountain outside of Kingsport, Tennessee. From their back balcony, they can look across a wide valley and see the beautiful Clinch Mountains of Virginia on the horizon to the north.
Like Steve Martin, Jerry is a wild and crazy guy. Though he is showing early signs of . . . eh, . . . dement- . . . eh, . . . Alzhei . . . something or other, Why, that Prune Picker still remembers every joke he ever heard and delivers each punch like with vim and vigor. Actually, I don’t know whether he remembers any of those “farmer’s daughter and the salesman” jokes from our teenage years, but if he does he ain’t admitting to it.
Boys, now what I’m about to tell you is the gospel truth. ‘Cause I heard it directly from my ‘Cuz. And pert near everything he tells me is resonably precise.
Jerry told me that a couple of years or so ago, his appointment with his doctor for his annual physical rolled around. When they called his name from the cattle corral (waiting room), one of their nurses took him aside and took his weight and vital signs (yes, he still has some). And she escorted him to the Great Waiting Room down the hall where he twittled his thumbs for 15 or 20 minutes.
Finally, the doctor came in and they exchanged pleasantries. The doc checked his chart and his medications and declared him not-exactly-brain-dead. Said he seemed to be in mite near perfect condition for an old man with not long to live on Mother Earth.
Then the doc began to stammer and stutter and finally got out these dreaded few words that send a chill up the spine of any red-blooded American male. He said, “Well, Jerry, stand up, turn around and drop your pants and BVD’s to your knees. Time for me to check where the sun don’t shine.”
Jerry turned his head around, as much as his arthritis would allow, and looked his doc in the face and said in his professional, deadpan comedian way: “Well, Dr. Jones, I should darn well hope you’re going to check my prostate. I didn’t wash my butt today, like this, for just anybody.”
When the doctor finally quit laughing, and after visiting that Dark Domain, he said to my ‘Cus: “Jerry, for years now I have kept a log of funny things that my clients say to me. You will be pleased to know that your comments will go down in history.”
NOTE: The above cartoon is especially for my two old friends, Bob L’Huillier (Bradenton, FL) and Victor Knowles (Joplin, MO), who are devoted baseball fans.
Now surely all of you, well maybe not you young ‘un’s under 50 or so, remember ol’ Jimmy Carter, long-time peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. He was born there on Oct. 1, 1924.
Now my Grandpa Paregien was a “yellow-dog” Democrat until his dying breath. Somehow I went down the Republican path. But I came through the wringer of the Hippie Years and the Anti-Vietnam War Years. So I did my own thing and I castigated my first vote for a Democrat when I voted for Jimmy Carter. I mean, gee whiz, after all the duds we’d had before, I felt we just couldn’t go wrong voting for a certified man of the soil, a tried and true peanut farmer. After all, a distant relative of mine — Johnny Walters of Wapanucka, Oklahoma–was “Peanut Farmer of the Year” one time in Johnston County.
Well, I’d admit I was wrong about that premise and have made two or maybe three fair-to-middlin’ mistakes since then. But how the heck was I to know that he was also an expert on atomic submarines and other useless stuff like that. Ignorance is often bliss, and I was in la-la-land that day I voted for Mr. Carter.
Shootfire, ol’ Jimmy was a sure ’nuff nice guy. He even taught a Sunday morning Bible class almost everywhere in the world he happened to be, and still teaches his “Adults 101” Bible Class today in Plains (they call it 101 because that’s about the average age of the class members). But even nice guys don’t necessarily make good presidents. Of course, comparing him to Donald J. Trump today I have to say that ol’ peanut farmer looks better and better.
Do you remember Jimmy Carter’s dear, free-spirited momma? Lillian Gordy Carter often shot from her lip, saying just whatever she wanted to say whether it was approved by the Southern Baptist Convention or by the Geneva Convention either one. She was a corker to be sure. And then there was Jimmy’s junior brother, good ol’ Bubba — no, wait a minute, it was Billy. Billy Carter, whose only claim to fame was getting his name on some beer cans — “Billy Beer.” They didn’t serve it in finer restaurants back then, but you might have been able to get one out in Luckenbach, Texas.
But I digress, as I’m prone to do.
Here are some of President Carter’s words of wisdom about the virtues of growing old. He is still a Card-Carrying Baptist so I hope the Lord will excuse him for stretching-the-blanket a bit” (as the old-time cowboys used to refer to any cowpoke who stretched the truth). Keep in mind this remarks are from his 1998 book, noted above.
“Even before leaving the White House, Rosalynn and I received a notice from the American Association of Retired Persons that we were qualified for membership, but we considered ourselves too young to face the stigma of senior citizenship. However, once back in Plains [Georgia, population 700 — SP] the point was to be driven home most firmly and clearly.
“We live 120 miles south of Atlanta and habitually drive back and forth toThe Carter Center and to Emory University, where I am a professor. One morning we left our house quite early and stopped to eat breakfast in Thomaston, Georgia, about halfway to Atlanta. There were four of us in the car, and we all ordered about the same thing. But when the waitress brought my bill, I noticed that it was less than the others. Perhaps seeking credit for being an honest customer, I called her back and began to tell her that she had made a mistake. An older farmer, dressed in overalls, was sitting at a nearby table and apparently overheard my conversation. He looked over at us and called out in a loud voice, ‘Your bill ain’t no mistake, Mr. President. Before eight o’clock they give free coffee to senior citizens.’
“A wave of laught began at our table, and it still resonated through the restaurant as I paid my bill and hurried back to the car. For several weeks afterward, every time we approached Thomaston I knew that someone would say, ‘Why don’t we stop here for breakfast? There’s free coffee for some of us!'” (pp. ix-x).
When Jimmy Carter was voted out of the Presidency, he and his wife found that their “Blind Trust Fund” had been badly managed and their home and farm in Plains were deeply in debt, too. And then they faced another issue, as he tells it:
“There were other reasons as well why moving from Washington back to our home in Plains was not a pleasant experience. It was not easy to forget about the past, overcome our fear of the future, and concentrate on the present. In this small and tranquil place, it was naturual for us to assume–kike other retirees–that our productive lives were about over. Like many other involuntary retirees, we had to overcome our distress and make the best of the situation.
“When one of our friends pointed out that more than a third of American men in my age troup were retired, and that we could expect to live until we were eighty years old, I had one disturbing reaction: What was I going to do with the next twenty-five yeears?” ( pp. 2-3)
“. . . as we entered our seventies there was another potential threat to our happiness: the forced realization that both of us fit almost any definition of ‘old age.’ I guess it is unpleasant for any of us to face our inevitale gray or thinning hair and the tendency for our waistline to spread, especially when advancing years correspond to a reduced income. This brings a challenging but inevitable transition in our lives — from what we have been to a new type of existence as ‘senior citizens.'” (p. 8)
“So then, when are we old? The corrrect answer is that each of us is old when we think we are — when we accept an attitude of dormancy, dependence on others, a substantial limitation on our physical and mental activity, and restrictions on the number of other people with whom we interact. As I know from experience, this is not tied very closely to how many years we’ve lived.” ( p. 11)
“Driving on the interstate highway in Atlanta to go to The Carter Center, for several months we regularly passed a large billboard advertising country music. The sign said, ‘My wife ran off with my best friend, and I miss him.’ This doesn’t apply to us [i.e., he and Rosalynn]. We seem to be bound together with ever-increasing bonds as we’ve grown older and need each other more. When we are apart for just a day or so, I have the same hollow feeling of loneliness and unassuaged desire as when I was away at sea for a week or more during the first years of our marriage.” ( p. 39)
We’ll share more from this book in a future issue of THE PAREGIEN JOURNAL.
Well, here it is — another 4th of July.
I’m sitting here looking at the “celebrity” birthdays for July 4th and, shazam, I do know more than a couple. Those include . . . Eva Marie Saint (actress, 93), . . . Gina Lollobrigida, atress, 90; as an early teen . . . or maybe a pre-teen, I fell in love with that beautiful lady on the flying trapeze in the movie starring she and Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster, a for-real former circus trapeze star) . . . Neil Simon (90, playwright) . . . and that’s as “young” as I can recognize on the list. Of course, that doggone lists includes somebody named Malia Obama, age 19. Oh, wait a minute, I remember. Nah, never mind.
Then there was this historical oddity under “Today In History,” where on July 4, 1826 — exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted — two of our nation’s former presidents died, that being John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Finally, on July 4, Charles Kuralt died in New York at the age of 62. You remember Charles Kuralt, don’t you? He was the CBS reporter who, with only his TV camerman/soundman as a companion, traveled the backroads of the United States. He was born Sept. 10, 1934 and died on July 4, 1997.
“On the Road” was one of the most popular TV programs–actually, filler spots in the CBS news–that CBS had at the time. He always seemed so doggoned friendly, with a lot of homegrown wisdom, and he could sniff out a seemingly insignificant story and make it a masterpiece. Here are a few of his quotes:
The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.
Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.
The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.
I recall, in particular, one time he and his cameraman were rolling down a back road in Tennessee or Kentucky . . . and Charles notes a bunch of clothes hanging out back of an old farm house (very few of those new-fangled “clothes dryers” out in the country). So he stopped and visited with the lady and her family and wound up with a very informative and enjoyable six minutes of film. He never won a Pulitzer Prize, but he was one heck of a fine reporter. We still miss you, Mr. Kuralt.
Wise Words for the Young and the Old
From a Member of the Royal Family
Be generous: Invest in acts of charity.
Charity yields high returns.
Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around.
Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night.
When the clouds are full of water, it rains.
When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls.
Don’t sit there watching the wind. Do your own work.
Don’t stare at the clouds. Get on with your life.
Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life
forming in pregnant woman,
So you’ll never understand the mystery at work
in all that God does.
Go to work in the morning
and stick to it until evening without watching the clock.
You never know from moment to moment
how your work will turn out in the end.
Oh, how sweet the light of day,
And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!
Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted.
Take delight in each light-filled hour,
Remembering that there will also be many dark days
And that most of what comes your way is smoke.
You who are young, make the most of your youth..
Relish your youthful vigor.
Follow the impulses of your heart.
If something looks good to you, pursue it.
But know also that not just anything goes;
You have to answer to God for every last bit of it.
Live footloose and fancy-free —
You won’t be young forever.
Youth lasts about as long as smoke.
Honor and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young,
Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes,
Before your vision dims and the world blurs
And the winter years keep you close to the fire.
In old age, your body no longer serves you so well.
Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.
The shades are pulled down on the world.
You can’t come and go at will. Things grind to a halt.
The hum of the household fades away.
You are wakened now by bird-song.
Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.
Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.
Your hair turns apple-blossom white,
Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.
Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest,
While your friends make plans for your funeral.
Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.
It’s all smoke, nothing but smoke.
The Quester says that everything’s smoke.
Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others
knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many
proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words
and write the plain truth.
The words of the wise prod us to live well.
They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together.
They are given by God, the one Shepherd.
But regarding anything behind this, dear friend, go easy.
There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant
study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else.
The last and final word is this:
Do what he tells you.
And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything
that we do out into the open and judge it according
to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil.
Painting of Solomon
Ecclesiastes 11:1 to 12:14 ( The Message) by King
Solomon (aka “The Quester”). He was a son of King David
of Israel and was appointed King himself at the age of 12.
He only lived 52 years, from 848 B.C. to 796 B.C.). His
major accomplishment was in completing the Jewish
Temple in Jerusalem. Well, that and finding out how to
keep his 300 wives and 700 concubines happy.
— See ya the next time. I’m trying to get back into the groove of posting every Thursday. Well, that’s my goal, anyway. — Stan