Getting old doesn’t mean you can’t still be little boy
The aging process begins at birth and keeps on going till you’re dead which my doctor assured me would happen to me a couple of years ago at my annual when he announced “no one gets outta here alive!” I’m like “you mean this exam room?”
I should have known it was coming, though, when five minutes earlier the senior citizen mishap nurse asked, “have you experienced any falls since your last visit?” I turned around to see if my 93-year-old mother was with me. Then she bent over and whispered in my ear, “Do you feel safe in your own home?” I yelled back, “Yes, if I can find it and the wife lets me in and I can remember where I hid my loaded shotgun.” That shut her up.
When you first are forced to face the reality of aging, it can be a real slap in the face, which is exactly what happened to me. I could barely tie my shoes and tell time and ride my bike no handed, and I was trying to act my age which quite honestly was just 7 when my old man came up to me and said in a stern voice, “young man Tommy, my aging, penniless, unemployed son and older brother of Johnny – were you the one who took the quarter out of my pants pocket?” I’m like, “yes you cheapskate – no one was using it” – slap! “You are 7 and have reached the age of reason, now act like it.” I’m like “what the hell is reason?”
So I wisely, quickly turned the other cheek which I had heard about doing somewhere, and he slapped me on that one, too. So that kinda got my head back on straight, but it ticked me off a bit too so I went and stole a nickel from my much older ancient brother Jimmy who was 9 and who wasn’t as wealthy as my old man, but wealthier than me, and I went to the Fox Theatre to see the movie “Pinocchio.”
That was the story of a little mischievous wooden Italian boy who fabricated stuff in his mind, too. He was created by a lonely bachelor Italian carpenter-type named Mister Gepetto who wanted a little boy, but without the wife part so he carved himself one out of wood. So as the story goes one night Mister Gepetto was outside with the little wooden boy sitting by the roaring campfire right next to the bone dry woodpile, which sounds risky to me, and he mistakenly threw Pinocchio into the fire. End of story.
That’s my version.
But what really happened according to the other author of this story was Mister Gepetto was actually star gazing and probably drinking beer and a small star fell and landed in Italy in their yard and just missed them, and when it did Mister Gepetto wished upon it that his Pinocchio would become real. In pops a Blue Fairy and he’s real.
Big mistake. Now Mister Gepetto has to feed and water him and keep him away from woodpeckers and carpenter ants and wood stoves and the like. Any who, how timely I’m thinking and right up my alley. Watching the movie got my mixed-up little mind back on track, and I was rather enjoying things when Pinocchio starts telling lies. I’m thinking “He must be six.”
Quite honestly, though, I was actually enjoying all his lying and hoping he wouldn’t get slapped too, plus I was getting some good ideas for home use until, that is, his nose starting growing. And I mean growing and growing and growing until it was as long as an Oscar Mayer wiener. Then I nervously started checking my nose which I was surprised seemed to be the same size as the last time I picked it.
So I am watching Pinocchio’s nose grow and nervously picking mine trying to figure out how to proceed in my advancing years when to my rescue who should but appear in the movie? None other than another unfamiliar counselor-type a lot littler than my dad who didn’t slap or pedal reason but who had invented another approach to successful aging.
He said to Pinocchio and me, “let your conscience be your guide.” I’m like hmmmm, I think I had heard that word once when I was in “time out,” but it’s meaning escaped me and who the little shrink was who said it in the movie. So I elbowed the girl next to me and whispered to her “honey cakes-who’s the little counselor?” She said, “silly, that’s Jiminy Cricket.”
So the movie got over, and I got older, and I was further punished for my borderline reasoning and lack of conscientiousness with another terrifying invention called confession. This was a religious safeguard loophole invented by another carpenter’s son or his protégé in Rome which you could employ should you have lingering challenges with using reason and the other thing.
This loophole was the chance to get the slate wiped clean, so you could do it all over again, by telling a person who couldn’t see you and who was hiding on you about your imperfections. Sounded like I would have to spend a lot of time with this mystery person or my nose might start growing too.
But this set up did not appeal to me, so, at age 7, I rode my bike to Tomahawk and consulted with my grandma Elizabeth Thompson who immediately said, “Tommy, how did you get here and why is your damn nose so long?” She was very nice and never had a job but she had a nice wig, cat glasses, a ’49 Ford, smoked and bowled and lived to age 94 and must not have seen “Pinocchio.”
She probably would have lived a lot longer had she not gotten remarried at age 92 and had not taken care of me and my two brothers in Tomahawk every summer for two weeks. Her first husband referred to the three of us as “the wrecking crew” and we were. He died at age 63.
Anyways G-ma Liz said, “Tommy you are only as old as you think you are.” I’m like “now this will work.” So I adopted her philosophy, rode my bike back home and my body grew old.
So armed with a conscience and reason and her advice, I have now joined the legions of seniors after 60 years and am kinda fitting in. I do watch “The Wheel of Fortune” primarily because Vanna White makes $8 million a year and I wanna see why. She also is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being “television’s most frequent clapper” plus I like to see what she is gonna wear. And it helps too that the first letter she ever turned was “T” as in Tommy and that she was a centerfold in a Playboy that my best friend’s dad hid under his bed.
I do wear glasses but mostly for looks. I have used hearing aids that I inherited to be nice to people around me who are insensitive to us seniors and mumble, mutter, whisper, grunt and walk away from us while talking. I put them in, and it makes those people quit doing most of that and turns the volume up on the TV.
I was going to get shoes with Velcro straps but one of my senior advisers, a senior prevention specialist named Raymond Smith, informed me that doing so was the beginning of the end. I have a smart phone which answers important questions like “is The Polonia Café open today,” “what day is it” and “how much does Pat Sajak make a year?”
We have GPS in the car which basically is a talking map which gets you places if you can remember where you are going. It won’t tell you why you are going there, though. I could probably have a lot of stuff to complain about, but I can’t remember what they are. When my sweet 93-year-old mother never complains, how can I?
In summary, I can’t remember what I was going to say, so instead I’ll leave you with my favorite Modus operandi calendar quote which is, “when I grow up I want to be a little boy.” Who says you can’t have it both ways? Not Tommy Jensen.