When younger, I often heard couples say that they looked forward to “growing old together.” I’m old now, and so is my wife, so let me give you a few hints of what it is really like (at times).
Wife: Isn’t it sweet that Beverly went to church without nagging?
Husband: Did you say that the bird perch is sagging?
Wife: Whatever are you talking about? Our birdfeeder doesn’t have a perch.
Husband: Oh, I thought that the birds quit feeding from near the porch.
Wife: No, but the cardinals and sparrows need more feed from the garage.
Husband: Well it is marginal and somewhat harrowing to see a mirage.
It doesn’t go quite that way, but you get the point: growing old together can be rather confusing, especially if either or both of the oldies are hard of hearing. But it can be fun to try and put the linguistic pieces together and make some semantic sense out of the exchange. The other day it went like this:
Husband: Did you forget to turn the light off in the living room last night?
Wife: Yes, I read about that fight in the saloon.
Husband: Sometimes I forget the light too.
Wife: That’s OK, I’ll cook you up some stew.
Our brains are programmed to guess at what we think we are hearing, so we often speculate instead of simply asking. But asking has its pitfalls too:
Wife: Did you finish reading the paper?
Husband: What? I haven’t a clue what you said?
Wife: I said, “Did you finish reading the paper?” I want to recycle it.
Husband: Well you don’t need to ask me before you throw it out.
Wife: But did you finish reading it?
Husband: I told you that I was finished.
Wife: No you didn’t. You said I sometimes throw it out before you have read it.
Husband: I don’t remember saying that.
Growing old together requires not only linguistic interpretations, but also patience. Sometimes it is the newspaper or TV that help us and give momentum for a terrific dialogue:
Wife: Did you read that the Gaines’s of Fixer-Upper have bought a place over on LaSalle?
Husband: No, I didn’t know the Gaines’s had bought a Mall?
Wife: Why don’t you wear your hearing aids so you can hear what I am saying?
Husband: I took them out when our grandson was here (three days ago).
Wife: Well, we paid a lot of money for them and you should wear them all the time.
Husband: But I can hear you easily if I sit next to you.
Wife: Then why am I shouting?
Husband: Are you?
Yes, growing old together has its charms, but repeating oneself endlessly isn’t one of them. Sometimes what we disagree about what shouldn’t even be debatable. Taking the process a step further, consider this interchange while driving the other day. It is another example of how we oldies need each other’s help:
Husband: How does it look that way?
Wife: No, you almost hit that car.
Husband: “No” sounds too much like “go.” Say something different, like “clear on the right.” The pilots in Papua New Guinea would say it when they were starting the twin engine.
Wife: Do you really want me to say “clear to the right” if something is coming from the left?
Husband: I’ll look to the left and you look to the right.
Wife: But sometimes you don’t see cars coming from the left. I’ll just yell if a car is coming.
Husband: No, don’t do that—it will scare me and I might slam on the brakes and then all the groceries in the trunk would slide forward out of reach. I’ll have to climb in the trunk to pick them up and last time I did that I sprained my back.
Wife: The turn signal light is still clicking.
I don’t want to end there because it would give the wrong idea of “growing old together.” There are many more times when we show our need for each other in practical ways. We have our duties sorted out: my wife makes a lunch and supper and I prepare breakfast—except on the weekend when we wander into the kitchen and get our own.
Life is regimented in a pleasant way: I get up around 5 am and do some reading and writing. About 6:16 or so I get breakfast: oatmeal with raisons, flax, walnuts, cinnamon, a touch of salt, then some banana and peaches or blueberries. You can hardly find the oatmeal beneath my conglomeration. We read some devotions and pray for our families (and others) each morning.
After breakfast we soon head off to the YMCA and spend about 40 minutes there—on the treadmill, stationery bike and doing a few “weight” machines. We are home before 8:30 and I have a shower while Joice naps a bit. About 10 minutes before the 10th hour we are watching one of The Great Courses. We have done a number of them and have just finished “The History of the Supreme Court,” a series of 30 lectures by Professor Peter Irons.
We spend a bit of time discussing what we have learned and soon it is time for lunch, which is simple, consisting of yogurt, water, half a sandwich for me, an avocado for Joice, and tangerines or some other fruit for both of us. We sit out on the back patio to eat our lunch, hoping to see some birds, but not wasps and worms.
Sometimes in the afternoon we go grocery shopping: Aldi’s for most things but HEB for bananas and a few other things. Sometimes I buy gas at HEB or we have to pick up a prescription. I sit in the pharmacy area and wait for Joice—shopping at HEB is unenjoyable, not as painful as Walmart but about the same pain threshold as Target.
On the way home we may stop at the library to read, but mainly to check out some DVD movies (with closed captions). We can check them out 5 for a week and usually three of them are worth watching.
Joice prepares supper: almost always sweet potato, some kind of meat, a green substance called vegetable, and some fruit. Evenings are then spent watching TV, reading or, in my case, writing, before we read Scripture, pray and go to bed. Except that Joice usually doesn’t want to go to bed or, if she does, after half an hour or so will get up and go out and read—she is a night person, but by 9 pm my eyes are struggling to stay open.
I haven’t mentioned visitors because there are many of them. We have Baylor students, church members, friends stopping by on their way between Dallas and Austin, a small group of eight that we meet with regularly, and so on. We also both attend Bible studies and other meetings and I haven’t told you about weekends, which are often varied, but include church on Sunday and a brunch afterwards. Our church and our friends there mean a great deal to us.
On Saturday mornings I like to paint and in the afternoon I will often watch the current sport, although my interest in football and baseball has diminished. There is a correlation with age: the older I get the more I find many professional athletes greedy, boring and vain.
Occasionally we eat out, but not often. We like Wendy’s and the Cotton Patch, but are open to Five Guys, which our grandchildren like, or any of their other favorites. We have been given Christmas or birthday gift cards for Panera, Olive Garden and other places, but sometimes it takes us six months to use them. We love to use coupons and would like to take Kirk to Arby’s again sometime (the last time was in L.A. years ago, but it includes a favorite story).
Of course, our favorite times are with our families: fortunately for us, our Waco Hardin family live close by and we see them (and their dog) often. Kirk stops by when he is in the States (sometimes with Christine) and our Aussie grandchildren keep us informed of what is going on in their lives.
We have lots of computer photos and files to access and they remind us of events and stories that we recount. There are always things to do and people to visit or contact—becoming an oldie does not mean getting moldy.
As you can see, “growing old together” really does mean that we do a lot of things together. For the most part, we enjoy them—except when we are discussing something neither of us think we said.