Many years ago, when I was in my mid-thirties, I was with a man who had a habit of announcing his age. Vehemently. With conviction. As if it meant a great deal to the conversation at hand.
“I am a forty-two year old man,” he would say, as if it gave credence to his opinion, or discredited mine. “I am forty-two years old,” he’d grumble in answer to a request. “I am forty-two years old,” he would declare in a loud voice, as if it could render void any argument or complaint presented to him.
I didn’t see the logic. He was older than me, but only by six or seven years. He was healthy and fit. I saw no reason for his age to be a part of any discussion, unless the discussion was about his birthday, or his age. I tried a couple times to respond with, “…and what does that have to do with anything?” It didn’t go over well, though. My fallback strategy was to give him a blank look, and wait for more information. Sometimes forthcoming, sometimes not.
My daughters noticed the behavior, of course. They’d find ways to try out the tactic for humorous effect. In a discussion about what program we were going to watch on television, one might state, with a grin, “I am sixteen years old!” If I called after work to let them know I’d be home soon, I might hear, “Hey, I’m fourteen years old.” Sometimes we’d catch each other’s attention and share a slight smirk or eye-roll at the poor man’s expense.
For quite a long time when I was a young adult, it seemed like every chat was remedial, with folks feeling like I needed to be told how things were, or how they should be. Perhaps it was because I was young, or small, or female, or so obviously lacking in life experience. Then, for a blessed long time, age, knowledge and experience gave me a certain credibility. Now, with advancing years, I seem to once again be relegated to the kindergarten class.
In defiance, I find myself reaching back into my memory, and starting conversations with that same idiosyncrasy that I mocked so many years ago. I don’t say it out loud, but the chatter in my head often begins with, “I am sixty-seven years old…”
The nurse practitioner at our Medical Center, in response to a question about a medicine that is no longer working, said, “Well you know, you do have to take these pills every day…” I held her gaze. Inside my head, the conversation went like this: “I am sixty-seven years old. I have been taking this medicine for almost twenty years. The prescription bottle clearly says to take it every day. What, for heaven’s sake, would make you think I don’t know that??” Out loud, I said, “Yes, I know. I take them every day.”
When a bit of well-meaning advice comes my way about how to interact with a troublesome person, or handle a personal failure, or deal with a loss, the silent dialogue begins: “I am sixty-seven years old. I have a little life experience under my belt. In addition, I am the queen of self-help books. It may not seem like I’m handling the situation well but, for the love of God, I know how to handle it!!!” Out loud, I say, “Good advise, thank you.”
A couple days ago, I stopped at the airport on my way to town, to pick up a couple deliveries for the hardware store, and a prescription for myself. I turned off the car, went in to the terminal building, gathered my packages and carried them out to the car. The car wouldn’t start. I turned off the radio and the fan that circulates the heat, so that I could hear what was going on. Nothing more than a “click” when I turned the key. I popped the hood, and stepped out of the car.
“What’s going on?” the mechanic asked. “I don’t know,” I replied, “My car won’t start.” “Did you push the clutch in all the way? Do you have it in neutral?” I greatly appreciated his willingness to help. I gave him a silent nod. Inside my brain, though, the diatribe was both long and sarcastic. And it started with the words, “I am sixty-seven years old…”