The old man in Cleveland

“You’re old,” my cousin’s 6-year old said to me. Thanks, kid.  I’m glad I left the warm sunshine of Los Angeles to come to the, at least currently, too cold, drab and damp, cheerless skies of Cleveland for Sukkot.  Now I feel great.  Look, I have been told by numerous people numerous times that I look younger than my years – damn, where did the time go – and I have all my hair still, unlike some of my friends and relatives, including um, a certain cousin.

But the boy is after all, just a kid, and a good kid, and I remember when I was young I thought anyone older than twenty was up there, and certainly anyone who had gray hair along with his brown or blondish hair that used to be all red like mine, had one foot in the grave.

But these last couple weeks I have been told other things that made me wonder about how I must look, and whether the aging process was accelerating and the grim reaper was sharpening his sickle.  Read on.

A couple weeks ago, I went to the pharmacist to get a flu shot.  I asked the pharmacy tech if my insurance would cover it.  “Well, you are on Medicare, aren’t you, Mr. Altman?”  “Medicare?  How old do you think I look?”  (Medicare kicks in for those over 64 years of age; I have yet to exit my 50’s, but that day will be here in a few years.)  When I turned to leave after the administration of the injection, I told the tech that as soon as I got home I would put in my teeth to make my appearance more palatable.

By the way, it is hard for me to really know how I look because I have some color-blindness, especially with browns and grays, and so, when I look in the mirror, I see brownish-blondish hair.  Not one gray hair at all.  But some are there, I know.  Maybe more than some.  But still, c’mon, Medicare?

Last Saturday night as I and my sister and brother-in-law made our way to and through the TSA security booths, the TSA agent asked me if I was over 75?  “What?” I asked?  “Are you over 75, sir?” he asked louder.  He was serious.  I told him I wasn’t, thinking, “Damn, do I now look that freaking old?  Was everyone just being nice to me to my face only to say behind my back, boy, that is one ‘alter cocker!’”

I did want to give the young whippersnapper a piece of my mind, but I figured it was best not to annoy the guy who can decide to let me go through to the gate with relative ease, or hold me back and “wand” my privates if he so wished.

So what gives?  Maybe I have aged on the outside more than I thought.  I know I haven’t on the inside.  If anything, my maturity level has been regressing, like a mind-altered, rather than an age-altered, Benjamin Button.  So of course, I asked several relatives and friends for their opinion.  I heard everything from looking like I was in my mid-40’s to mid-50’s.  And if I were to color my hair, which I will not do, then I would definitely look like I was in my 40’s.

OK, so I became a bit reassured that I was not yet ready to hang it up.  But thinking about it, is it so bad to be considered an older individual?  After all, “with age comes wisdom,” right?   If true, for me lately, er, not so much.  I mean, have you ever kept making one mistake after another, not going with or against your better judgment or instincts because you don’t even know what they are?  Perhaps, I am just thinking way too much.

But back to “with age comes wisdom.”  It is a quote attributed to Oscar Wilde.  The whole quote is, “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.”  Thanks for adding that second part, Oscar.  The Midwest skies have not been gloomy enough.  Hey!  I see the sun poking through!  Oh wait.  A dark loud just covered that sliver.

Cleveland people, I know you have nice days here.  I do.  And I know during this time of year, what I am witnessing in the skies makes perfect sense.  For here.  I just miss the sun and the warmth.  (By the way, I am one of those who would choose hot over cold, were they the only weather choices.)

Where was I?  Right.  Age, wisdom, gray skies, cool weather.  I think part of it is that I am becoming less tolerable of change and feel things just seem to be getting more and more complicated.   I want simple.  Easy.  I don’t like driving around too much anymore, when I used to really enjoy driving.  I don’t like meeting new people that much anymore when I used to see each new human encounter as a welcome challenge and a way to extrovert myself.  (Can I use “extrovert” as a verb?  Well, I just did, so too bad.)

Look, when I do meet someone new, fear not, I can be quite charming and humorous.  I just think at times, I already know enough people.  Maybe too many.  I remember my father saying, “I don’t want to be bothered.”  I think we all become our parents in one way or the other for better or for worse.  My father was an introverted, quiet man; my mother was pretty outgoing.  I have become both my parents.  Not wanting to be bothered, but when I am, and “bothered” may not be the best word, I can be very friendly and funny, if I may say so myself.

So where am I going with all this?  Who the hell knows.  Could be I am just very tired – I haven’t slept too well since I arrived a few days ago.  Could also be that my plans for today got messed up.  Could be I just hate change so much, even temporary change.  Although I am staying with wonderful relatives in their lovely, comfortable home, I prefer my own bed, my own house, my own shower, all of that.  I mean, who doesn’t?

But hey, in a little while, that 6-year old boy will be home, and just by seeing me, will jump on me and hug me and laugh and call out my name, as his twin brother, eyes sparkling and wide, shows me his latest toy, the ash-colored heavens unable to hide the children’s own personal, oh so youthful, exuberant sunshine.  Who knows?  Maybe if I weren’t so ancient and decrepit, I wouldn’t get that kind of greeting.

But damn, I wish it would warm up.

About the Author
Shia Altman who hails from Baltimore, MD, now lives in Los Angeles. His Jewish studies, aerospace, and business and marketing background includes a BA from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Baltimore. When not dabbling in Internet Marketing, Shia tutors Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and Judaic and Biblical Studies to both young and old.