August 2009 Column Winner

No plans for funeral tardiness, but for aging with dignity
David Gerard - Muskogee Phoenix,  August 2009
Most people tell me I look pretty good for a guy in his late 50s. I think I look better than pretty good.
But you want the truth, listen to children.
So I’m riding my bicycle home from work recently, and this 7- or 8- year-old girl shouts, “Keep pedaling, grandpa. Don’t be late for your funeral.”
Ah, out of the mouth of babes ... the unadulterated truth. But I refuse to go out undignified, so as I age, I will honor the following principles, which make up my Don’t-be-one-of-those-old-people Code:
• I will not assume that younger generations wish me dead.
At a recent Ohio town hall meeting, a woman asked President Obama if it’s true that the proposed health House Bill contains “a clause ... that everyone ... Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die.”
The president and AARP said it’s not true. The bill includes a provision allowing Medicare to pay doctors to discuss difficult end-of-life issues with patients.
The elderly usually assume they are burdens that younger people would just as soon not carry. I won’t assume that. I’m going to give younger people so much trouble they’ll have a reason to think it.
• I will not grow a ponytail.
I’ve thought about it, but a co-worker recently showed me a cartoon that pictured an older fellow with a ponytail. He was driving a convertible with a front plate that said, “ I’m sexy.” A policeman had stopped the man and said, “ I’m giving you two tickets. One for speeding, the other for lying.”
• I will not flirt with young girls.
In his last years, Mark Twain developed relationships with teenage girls he called his “ surrogate granddaughters.” But when a man reaches 70, he ought to realize the sprouting hairs on his ears and nose are real turnoffs.
Besides, young girls have ulterior motives. I was purchasing a suit about a year ago and the teenage salesgirl flirted with me. She almost convinced me to buy two suits.
• I will not say I’m suffering from Oldtimer’s Disease and I will not say, “When I get where I’m going, I forget why I went there.”
Those jokes were 50 years old 50 years ago – and please forgive me if I forget that I said I would not say those things. I might have Oldtimer’s Disease. (I had to get that in one last time.)
• I will not compare the present weather to the weather of my younger years.
Just because an elderly person has enough meteorological experiences to fill an electronic encyclopedia, that doesn’t mean he has to force them on his family and friends every five minutes when the weather changes.
• I will not tell the same stories and use the same expressions over and over.
Just because an elderly person has enough life experiences to fill an electronic encyclopedia, that doesn’t mean ... whoops, aging with dignity may be more difficult than I anticipated.
• I will not accuse younger generations of becoming more decadent than mine:
Some in older generations will say that little girl who called me grandpa was a sign of a disrespectful generation, the persistent degrading of social mores, and the fast approach of Armageddon and the Last Days.
I think if she came up with that on her own, she’s a bright girl, headed for a career on Comedy Central. More power to her.
If she picked it up from TV or some adult, well, as a society we’re just getting what we asked for, and so will she without me getting angry at her – she’ll face aging with dignity, too, someday.