Archive for February, 2008

retirements

Here’s another new experience for me – retirement. No, not mine (unfortunately) but of some of my co-workers.

I started work here about thirteen years ago when I was forty-five. This is an unusual company in this day and age because a lot of the employees have been here many, many years – some literally for their whole working lives. As such, you wind up working with the same people for a long time, which in my case is obviously thirteen years.

Previous to this period of employment, my mature working life included two employers at ten years each and a few fill-in employers in tough financial times. While there were older workers who retired from those businesses while I worked there, it never really bothered me. Most likely it was because employee turnover was great enough that people were always coming and going, or perhaps because I usually had little to do with those older employees.

In this job, not only is there very little turnover, but I am closer in age to those older employees facing retirement. When faced with the thought that these people won’t be here in a very short time, I find myself wishing that they wouldn’t retire (though in reality, I would not wish that on anyone). It’s purely selfish on my part – I’ll miss them.

It’s not like I socialize with the people from work. It’s rare that I see anyone from work anywhere other than in the office. My fellow employee’s are not my best friends. It’s just that you get comfortable working with people over the years. They become a known entity and you know what to expect from them, and though you might not be best friends, a comfortable familiarity has developed. I’ll miss that when they retire. I’ll probably really miss that when a new person gets inserted into the mix.

I suppose that’s why it’s hard for new people starting jobs in environments like this. It’s hard to figure out how to fit yourself into an organization that has been established for years. But that’s getting off the track.

I certainly will wish for a happy and fulfilling retirement for my fellow employees, but somehow things just won’t be the same here. Am I getting too “set in my ways?” Perhaps.

hairs and hands

Where did all this damn “old man” hair come from on the backs of my hands and on my knuckles? Where in the great evolutionary scheme of things did our species decide that we need hairier bodies as we get older? Are my fingers or my ears really going to be any warmer with this extra bit of hair?

And that skin at my wrists that once stayed smooth when I bent my hand – when did it start to get wrinkles and folds when I do that? How come I’m able to push the skin on the back of my hand to one side and have it decide to vacation over there for a while before slowing returning home? Whose flippin’ hands are these, anyways?

Then again, when someone wants to take a photograph of hands that show character, they never go looking for some twenty-year-old. It’s always grandma and grandpa that have the most interesting hands. I suppose it is a bit healthier to look at it from that perspective than to fret over a few extra wrinkles and hairs. After all, there’s not a whole lot I can do about it anyways, is there?

brrrrr

A couple of weeks ago I woke up in the night shivering like a can of paint in a paint mixer. That evening I had felt a bit chilled sitting at my computer, but it was nothing extreme or unusual. It is winter, after all. Unfortunately, I had to get up to pee, so that chilled me even more, and all that shivering made it hard to aim. Back to bed, I threw my heavy bathrobe on top of the flannel sheet, two blankets and quilt that were already on the bed, and crawled in. In pretty short order, I warmed up enough to fall back to sleep.

Since then, I have been finding that I get chilled more easily. Even when I turn on the extra electric heater in my computer room, I sometimes have to put on a sweatshirt. Several nights since, I have awoken to find that I was starting to feel a bit chilled, so now I start out with my bathrobe on top of the covers.

I have to wonder, do I have some kind of low-grade illness going on that doesn’t affect me in any other way? I did have a sinus infection a few weeks ago, followed by a sore throat. Am I just suffering some kind of lingering after effect?

Of course, the other thought that comes to mind is Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Huh? I’m talking about the holiday gatherings held at my mother-in-law’s house, where the temperature approaches greenhouse levels and causes everyone to throw open the windows. However, my mother-in-law is just fine with the extra warmth, and needs to put a sweater on when everyone else gets comfortable. Is this what I am coming to? Have I suddenly reached a point where my aging body can’t handle temperature regulation as well as it once did?

One of the guys I work with is about seven years older than I, and he and I are always turning the heat up in the office. On the other hand, the other guy I work with is ten years younger than me, and he’s always turning the heat down again after we have turned it up. Since he’s the boss, I don’t complain (I just turn the heat up again when it gets too cold) but that makes me wonder again if my body just isn’t working as well as it should be because I’m getting older.

I suspect that there are many more joys of aging to discover. Then again, if this isn’t because of age, I better see a doctor.

The Complete Stories of Truman Capote – by Truman Capote

Obviously enough, a collection of short stories by Truman Capote. As with any collection, some stories are better than others. I must confess that I enjoy most of Truman Capote’s works, having read many besides this one (but, oddly, I’ve never read In Cold Blood).

(Finished 2/19/08)

life part 2

There is a series on PBS called Life Part 2 that has been playing on one of my local public television stations on Saturday mornings. It’s not brand new, but if you haven’t seen it before it is worth checking out. While not the apogee of television programming, it is a “feel good” piece on aging, in so far as feeling you are not alone is “feel good.”

Host and guests are those of us in our later years. It touches on many concerns that we have as we age, including such topics as expecting our bodies to continue to work as they did when they were younger, having both children and elderly parents to take care of, etc. They also have interviews with several celebrities, including one with Bob Newhart that I enjoyed.

It’s not available everywhere, so check your local schedule. Like I said, it’s a bit lightweight, but you will be sure to find something in the series to which you can relate.

old men, young men

The other day I starting writing about how younger and older men relate to each other, and though I had a point and was slowly working my way towards it, the road was getting long and circuitous. I decided to spare you and hit the delete button. Yesterday I figured out where I went wrong.

Young men and older men relate to each other differently because – are you ready for this? – older men are older.

Although obvious, this fact perfectly explains the point I had been trying to make. Young men, and I’m speaking from experience here, see older men as a class of person distinct from themselves. Young men have only one perspective, one field of vision, one realm of experience, and that is youth. It is beyond their ability, through no fault of their own, to understand what an older man is.

On the other hand, an older man has been a young man – been there, done that, and knows how it turned out. Not only that, but as an older man, he has developed an appreciation for where he is heading and a greater understanding of those even older than himself. He has a much longer timeline of experience from which he can draw.

An older man feels affection for a younger man and tends to treat him as a peer, even if as a peer that still has learning to do. Older men are more likely to treat younger men inclusively. Younger men tend to separate themselves from older men and treat them as authority figures to whom they cannot easily relate. Perhaps this is a carryover from the father/son relationship. They view older men with a combination of fear and admiration.

I don’t claim that it’s all one big love fest. In competitive arenas – sports, business, socially – there can be a lot of discontent between young and old. Older men may envy the strength, enthusiasm and vitality of youth, while younger men may envy the power, self-assuredness and sagacity of age. Still, in spite of that competitiveness, older men can have an admiration and respect for the younger men who strive to take their place in the world, having once been that young man. Young men can only imagine what they will become as older men.

valentine’s day

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody. I hope that you get to spend it with someone who is near and dear to your heart. I won’t get that opportunity and, unfortunately, I know I’m not alone in that situation. I guess that’s life.

I have to admit that I get just a bit tired of all the commercials and advertising that goes with the holiday. Whenever you start to see a lot of jewelry commercials on television, you know that some kind of gift-giving holiday is coming up. The next one will be Mother’s Day.

Who can afford all that jewelry? It seems that the smallest thing is going to run you at least $150, and for something with any real “wow” factor you are going to put out at least $500. Ouch! For me, a kiss, a hug, and a cuddle on the couch while watching a good, romantic comedy is worth much more.

Then again, I’ve never been much of a jewelry person. When I was more officially married, I rarely wore my wedding ring. Even the watch I wear every day gets taken off and placed on my desk as soon as I get to the office , and comes off again as soon as I get home. I just don’t like things on my hands or fingers.

I also find that women who really like a lot of jewelry are not the type of women I go for. Then again, I’m not much into women who spend a lot of time getting their nails done or going to the spa for the latest bogus treatment of one kind or another. Women who spend that much time on their appearance tend, in my humble opinion, to be a bit light on substance. A fresh-scrubbed face and clean nails do much more for me than fake nails or fake eyelashes will ever do.

Some women get worse in this regard as they get older. Trying to cover up wrinkles with another coat of spackle just isn’t going to work, but it doesn’t stop them from trying. If that doesn’t achieve the right effect, then they think that throwing on the deepest, most intense colors of makeup will improve the situation. Of course, coloring your hair the purest, darkest color makes it all come together.

Oh well, to each his own. We all do our best to keep ourselves feeling young, and I guess if that’s what it takes for some people, who am I to criticize? It’s just that I have no time to waste on women like that. I like the one I have. Happy Valentine’s Day, Hon.

vacation wanted

I need a vacation, and I’m not joking. This winter weather really wears on me, and seeing the same four walls, either at the office or at home, day in and day out, gets so very tiring. Oh, for some warmth and some sun – and no damn snow!

I have never vacationed someplace warm in the winter. I’ve never really had the money and it always seemed like more hassle than it was worth. I still don’t have the money, but the hassle is starting to look a whole lot more attractive than sticking around here all winter.

Since I don’t have the money, I might as well put the idea out of my head. Besides, I don’t know where I would go. I’ve never been on a Caribbean cruise, so that could be a good idea. If nothing else, I could spend my time eating. I sure as hell wouldn’t be spending it on the beach. I would be afraid of getting harpooned.

Or maybe I could go to Vegas. It’s warm enough and there is plenty to do, and I don’t have to worry about getting sea-legs, either. However, if I don’t have enough money to travel, I sure as hell don’t have enough to gamble or see the expensive shows. Lying in the sun in the desert is cheap, but somehow doesn’t fit my idea of a fun vacation.

Maybe I can play the part of an old pervert and go watch the kids on spring break somewhere. Maybe if I bring a bunch of beads along with me . . . .  nah . . .  I don’t think so.

Oh hell, I might as well stay put. After all, it will only be another two months before things are better here, and maybe we’ll get lucky and it will improve sooner. Maybe just getting out of the house and going to see something different would help. I just don’t know what, and doing it alone just isn’t a lot of fun. However, it seems like the best I’m able to do right now.

All you people retired in the south and southwest can now commence laughing at this frozen northerner. You’ve earned the right to do so.

verily . . .

Perhaps yesterday’s entry and some of the other entries in this blog have given you the impression that I’m a bit of a skeptic. If so, then you win a gold star for interpretive reading.

It really irritates the hell out of me when people swallow things hook, line and sinker, without a second thought. I can’t imagine accepting someone else’s point of view in place of your own critical thinking. Granted, as I’ve said before, you can’t know everything, but you can at least hold off on a final judgment about something until you have researched it more completely.

Even worse than people who accept “common knowledge” at face value are those who go out of their way to “believe.” I’m too bound by facts, science and reality to accept the existence of things like ghosts, extra sensory perception, spiritual mediums, etc. (though if someone can provide hard proof, I’m more than willing to change my mind). The number of people who don’t question any of this bogus claptrap is astounding.

I suppose one should not be surprised about this in a culture that values taking things “on faith.” After all, many (most?) people on this planet have been raised in some kind of religion where faith is the only possible basis for belief. If you already accept things that can only be accepted on faith, it’s not much of a step to accept other questionable things on the same basis.

While I fully believe that this world would be a much, much better place with more critical thinking, I believe just as strongly that this will never happen. Just as there are people who are plainly mentally incapable of such thinking, there are many who actually choose to put their thinking caps aside.

Oft times I despair over the fate of mankind.

true or false?

When I was a younger man, it was very important for me to always have an answer to every question. No matter what the subject was, I had an answer, even if all I could do was extrapolate from my general knowledge. I’m not a dummy, so the likelihood that I was close to correct was good, or at least it sounded good. While some people are habitual liars, in my case it was more about ego. I couldn’t admit I didn’t know something. Today, I would rather be right than just have an answer.

Of course, this can make me look rather like an idiot. The older I get, the more I know I don’t know, so at least half of my answers now seem to be, “I don’t know.” Sure, I can still hazard a guess, but I no longer present that guess as fact, warning the questioner that they better look it up to be sure.

It’s fascinating how much stuff we don’t really “know.” We (and by this I mean all people, not just those of us in the more advanced age brackets) take a lot of “answers” at face value. I wonder how many people took my “facts” as gospel in years past, later to find that the truth was one hundred and eighty degrees from what I told them. We don’t take the time to investigate what really happened, what was really said, or what the statistics really mean. We rely too much on other people’s interpretations, and based on my experience on the answering side, I know that’s a dangerous road to take.

Additionally, the older you get, the more you realize how much there really is to know in this world. If you could totally master maybe one-billionth of all the knowledge in the world, you would be exalted as a genius. We just don’t have the time, not to mention other resources, to know it all. Living is like the old saying – “jack of all trades, master of none.”

This is compounded by the fact that there are a lot of people who don’t really care. All they are trying to do in this life is be happy and make it to old age. Some people aren’t even trying for that. For others, something is “the truth” only if it supports their existing ideas, and everything else is a lie. This becomes particularly evident during something like the current political campaigns. Even when we want to learn about something and “go look it up,” there is no guarantee that whatever you are reading wasn’t written from a biased point of view.

The moral of it all? Take it all with a grain of salt.