Vanities

There were a few unspoken but hoped-for benefits from attending my recent college reunion, none of which materialized.  I didn’t find my watch from 1978.  That guy who seriously still owes me 2 bucks?  He doesn’t remember that at all.

And I thought I could conduct an arthropological survey, taking advantage of my cohort, something I’m always interested in.  At the age of 30, I cleaned out my desk and took work home for good, becoming what I thought would be the front line of an imminent wave of telecommuters.  This didn’t turn out, by the way; lots of people do some work from home, but less than 3% of us actually completely telecommute.  And of course I’m not really a telecommuter, but I thought of myself that way back in the late 80s, when I had an “employer” and even a “job.”

But nearly a quarter-century of this has left me in stasis, only barely aware of how people my age are supposed to be.  I developed habits based not on fashion but atrophy.  I would relent and get a haircut when my wife suggested, in a kind way, that she was embarrassed to be seen with me.  I wore clothes until the holes in them threatened to expose family secrets.  I used slang that seemed hip when Jimmy Carter roamed the White House, at least until I mostly stopped talking.

So I welcomed a chance to hang around people my own age, see how they acted, reacted, spoke and dressed.  I observed their hair.  I listened for new, interesting words.  I was prepared to take notes.

It was a bust.  They all seemed pretty much the same, except some of them now wore glasses.  Nobody talked much about their kids, or their jobs, or their latest toys.  Actually, a lot of them drank a fair amount of the time, which is exactly what we did in college.

What I did notice, then, was me.  As the pictures started popping up online, what shreds of vanity I still retain started to tremble and then fall off, culminating in two, not one but two, comments on a recent picture posted on Facebook from the reunion.  I thought it was an OK picture, not goofy, not embarrassing, not showing that huge bald spot I have on the back of my head.  And yet these two thoughtful commenters, one a family member and the other a family friend (so they should know better, you would think) mentioned that I have developed a startling resemblance to my grandfather.

Let’s be fair.  They didn’t say, “You remember when Grandpa had a stroke and was in the rehab center and really sick and then he died? You look like that.”  But of course that’s what I was thinking.

Hey, I enjoy seeing family resemblances, but mostly in other people.  I want to look unique, as if I were dropped on this planet, an accidental delivery from a totally different gene pool, which frankly would explain a lot.

Mostly, though, it made me think it’s time to get rid of the beard.

I grew it last summer on a whim, urged on by most people of the double-x variety, who now I suspect had a secret agenda (Ha!  We’re going to look great standing next to him with that white beard).  I could be sensitive here.

I like beards.  I like growing them, I like trimming them, I like that it’s an easy way to shake up the face in the mirror.  I never intended for it to be a permanent look.  I thought, what, a few months, have some fun, get into a few movies cheaper, then off with it and youth reappears!

Here’s what I think: I think youth is not going to reappear.  I think youth is too busy with the young, and instead is going to send a substitute, which will be their good friend Aging Jawline, but still I’m shaving it.

I’m looking forward to being a grandparent, actually.  I have no qualms, just anticipation, and no rules except no dumb names, no “Boo-Pa” or “Poo-Pappy” for me.  These second-generation offspring can feel free to call me Grandpa, or Grandfather, or Dude.  Mr. Chuck will also be fine.

But I want to look like me, not my grandfather, as much as I loved and admired him, and miss him still, and who, now I think about it, only rarely had a beard.  It’s too late to change my mind, though.  And I seriously need to start wearing a hat more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Poo-Pappy”

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Post Snow and Such

I had three moments of horror on my past trip to Arizona – and I mean horror, scares, all sorts of imaging a future that might be; I don’t want to dilute the word, or reserve it for guys in hockey masks, but you understand.  A notch up from fear, most of it theoretical.

The third one is personal and not to be talked about right here, right now.  Although we’re good, fine, healthy.

The first occurred on Sunday as I was leaving Flagstaff for my trip down to Payson to see my mom.  It had snowed for 24 hours on Saturday, and although Sunday was bright and beautiful, and so damn picturesque I was tempted to take an extra hour and wander around town, I resisted; maybe I should return sooner than later.

My rental car was covered with what suspiciously looked like a foot of snow, so I borrowed an ice scraper from the hotel clerk, who demanded my driver’s license as collateral.  After a good 25-30 minutes cleaning off the snow, I returned the tool and got my ID back.

Although I was not my ID.  It was the driver’s license for a California dude who maybe had a passing resemblance, or maybe was just about the same age and build.  I noticed it right away and got that straightened out, but couldn’t help imagine finding this out just before I went through security at Sky Harbor.

Secondly, my iPhone bricked up on me, as I was sitting in Mom’s house, just trying to access her Wifi network – a network I installed and secured.  Just went into Recovery mode, that phone, needing a computer with iTunes to fix.  Mom does not have iTunes, and the fun and hours began.

This is where we are, then, and what we do. Traveling without my phone?  Might as well send me to Mars without some extra oxygen.  For a moment I was stuck in the 21st century, desperately trying to remember how I handled this situation in 1987.

All turned out well.  I am who my ID says I am, and Apple swiftly took me back to factory and then restored by latest back-up (two days before).  My pictures from the trip were safety stored on iCloud, losing only a few videos.

It could have been worse, then, and that stuck around for the entire trip.  I have so much to say about this reunion, even though I tried in this week’s column (I got home with about an hour to meet my deadline, so I did the best I could and left the good thoughts off somewhere for another time).

And I suppose I could make some statement about our safety lines to technology, or the state of the TSA, or even the state of sloppy desk clerks, but really:  Bottom line here.  It snowed like nobody’s business in April in Flagstaff, and as far as I knew everyone managed just fine.  The roads off the mountain were clear if wet, and the hotel we stayed at was surprisingly elegant and even fancy.

I got home safe, in other words, but probably not the same.  I have other things to say, but also other things to do.  There’s an ordination this weekend, and I do believe I need some clothes.  There are serious homeowner issues, long put off, that need to be addressed.  Taxes had to be mailed, clothes needed to be washed, photos from the weekend photoshopped to get rid of wrinkles: Busy busy.

But something happened, something subtle, something nice, and as soon as I figure it out I’ll let you know.  Laundry awaits in the meantime.

 

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Opening Day

New column is now online:

Gather round, children, and I’ll tell you what I did on Opening Day of baseball season.

What’s that, young fella? You want to get back to Halo XI or some such nonsense? You say baseball is slow, a poor excuse for getting outside in the fresh air and eating overpriced hot dogs? You run outside and cut me a good switch, boy. No, better yet, look at what I’m holding in my hand.

It’s called a videotape. It’s what came before all your fancy-dancy digital toys. A good old-fashioned analog storage device, the videotape. Don’t get smart with me; we can still find us a switch.

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Sssh

Two weeks ago I ran out of things to say, although I didn ‘t realize it at the time.  It wasn’t acute, sudden, shocking, grasping at my throat and bulging my eyes.  It wasn’t anything, except an awareness, eventually, that dull moments had accumulated and no news was the news.

Nothing to report from here.  Carry on.

And, of course, there was plenty of news.  Plenty of everything.  I just ran out of personal perspective juice.  It’s awkward.

Although, I have to say that I have an advantage, being an almost entirely virtual human being, if dropping off the radar is what you consider an advantage.  One of my neighbors might notice, I think, if I disappeared, but still: I probably would have a decent headstart if I wanted to vanish.  Even in this household, I might be able to construct some sort of equivalent of stuffing pillows under the covers in a vaguely human shape.  The dishes would pile up, I guess.

Here’s how bad it got: Monday I wrote a column in the third person.  I literally couldn’t start a sentence from a personal point of view, even though I had one.  As I say, awkward.  I have deadlines.

There are a couple of possible reasons, although there are always the usual suspects.  The weather has been ugly.  Depression is always a consideration.  Aging takes its toll, and so on.

But being skeptical about anything I can’t slap into a spreadsheet, not trusting my brain far enough to toss it, I’ll note that I made a few changes in my habits.  I have this college reunion coming up next week, and after I dithered and whined about expense and timing, I finally decided to commit.  I’m looking forward to it, but preparation was in order considering that I have a limited wardrobe.

This sort of thing, at this stage of our lives, is pretty low on the vanity scale.  First, if we’re going to attend, that probably means we’re alive. Advantage automatically.  Second, the playing field has leveled, and even people who look more or less the same have shrugged their shoulders.  Age happens.  This isn’t the prom.

But I wanted to avoid my usual style sense, which is sweatpants and any number of salsa-stained T-shirts.  I bought three pairs of pants a couple of months ago, noticing a sale, all on the tight side.  They’ll do fine for a trip, so all I had to do was loosen the waistline a little.  I upped my exercise and limited my diet, then, which focused my attention and maybe cost me inspiration.  That’s one theory, anyway.

The pants fit fine now, by the way.  Not a big deal.

And we can look at timing, too, since being mute coincided with Big News.  After nearly a year, and of course nearly 10 years, and of course nearly 14 years, on the first day of spring, at the Seattle Presbytery meeting held in the Eastlake area of Seattle in an area undergoing serious construction and thus making parking sort of a nightmare – I’m just noting this because I tend to relive parking experiences, it wasn’t a big part of the evening – my wife’s call by St. Andrew Presbyterian was approved.  Voice vote.  A few questions, a few lovely answers, moving on, after all this time.

You’re thinking there was an anticlimactic aspect to this.  Don’t.  It was very climactic.

But it did feel like the air escaped.  Like whatever role I played in this long, very frustrating drama was over.  It was never defined, other than run-of-the-mill spouse supportiveness and maybe, in my mind, centurion, security detail, protecting my wife from the mean people, who really weren’t mean, although maybe they had vision issues.  Really, I just was along for the ride, whatever dark fantasies I had.  Ride over.

So maybe that can shut a guy up.  Her ordination is scheduled for April 22.  Life will go on.  It will be beautiful, but there are always Sundays.

Whatever the reason, I got quiet.  Quiet enough that the Reverend Missus noticed.  Others.  Probably not you.  As I say, sort of a virtual person.

But, as I also say, alive, and feeling the advantage.  And the pants will be fine.

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