An old crocodile is still a menace

The thought of getting any older than I really am is starting to raise havoc with me.

I detest the thought of giving into age but there are all these grim reminders as I watched a 6-year-old granddaughter display her wizardry at a computer station.

She was amazed to think I lived in a generation where there were no computers or iPods—that the biggest moment in my childhood was the neighborhood yo-yo contest.

“We used to amuse ourselves with chestnut matches,” I told her. “As the chestnuts fell off the trees, we’d drill holes in them, knot some string on one end, and try to break the other guy’s chestnut.”

She gave me this look of pity.

I dread the arrival of another year and the celebration of my next birthday—my 69th. What, I ask, can be more invigorating than the purity and inspiration of youth—the vitality with which it shines?

The symptoms seem to manifest themselves these days. I put my underwear on backwards the other day and it fit better. Not only that, the worse player on the racquetball team wants to play me for money—with a 10-point spot no less.

The old legs don’t move quite as swiftly anymore and very often, my stomach gets in the way of a good kill shot.

My kids are treating me with reverence, rather than revenge. I walked into my living room, only to see my favorite easy chair occupied by someone younger. All of a sudden, the guest jumped up like he was shot from a cannon and said, “Here, take this chair,” as if I were too old to stand.

I go to weddings, see these kids shaking up a storm, and can’t wait until the DJ plays a waltz so I can join the crowd. I’m not asking for sympathy but perhaps a teeny bit might help.

I recall reading somewhere that age is only a matter of record. The real test is how you feel. I’ve heard it said that an old crocodile is still a menace and an old nightingale can still chip a merry tune.

A friend of mine turned 70 this year and walked around with a Superman t-shirt at his party. He felt honored being the same age as the inimitable man of steel.

But then, he looked that way at 50 and is till the type to run marathons and enter bicycle races. He tells me he stays “young” by living honestly, eating slowly, sleeping sufficiently, and worshiping faithfully.

“It’s all in God’s hands but you can help by being true to yourself,” he tells me. 

Most always, the three B’s give me away: baldness, bridgework, and bunions. The kids accuse me of not understanding what they’re talking about. They’re right. I don’t. I don’t belong to the same scientific or physical world as they do.

Nobody speaks loud enough for me to hear anymore. And when they do, they shout, thinking I need a hearing aid.

It’s been 10 years since I realized I was past my prime in basketball. The jocks snickered when I asked to join them in a game, paying no heed to my foul-shooting ability. They bucked up sides and I got picked last.

The workout took its toll. I paid for it days later. A game of chess would have been more up to speed.

The phone rings and a debate ensues as to who should answer it. I’m leery it’s someone asking us to a house party when I’d rather spend a quiet evening at home.

I remembered today that yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Upon buying a belated gift, I learned that I had missed the grand occasion by a week. The wife agreed to forgive and forget, provided I take her to a restaurant. I prefer a home-cooked meal.

Hey, who wants to be young anyway? Anyone born in the last 50 years can be young. I’d rather be called experienced or seasoned—anything but old. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy my better years ahead and take life one day at a time.

There’s one benefit to reaching an advanced age which I am growing to appreciate. I don’t care where my better half goes, just as long as I don’t have to tag along, especially to a shopping mall.

You see, it takes me longer to rest than to get tired, proving one important theory: By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere.


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

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1 Comment

  1. I have been reading your columns for years and enjoy them very much. This column has me worried about you.
    My advice to you is to use the wisdom of my father (Jora Makarian) who just passed away at 92.  He would say that he didn’t know what getting old was all about since he had never been there before! He danced solo at his great grandson’s christening at 88 and would caution me to keep dancing since at times I acted older than him.

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