What I Didn’t Know Back When I Knew It All

Having skipped directly from adolescence to senility and having reached the grand old age of three score and obsolescence, I now associate with many more individuals of the “senior persuasion” than has been my custom in the past. While the majority are normal fun-loving folks, there is a small minority of gripers and grumblers who cause my teeth to itch and my feet to march to the far side of the street. Occasionally, I don’t spot them in time.

It happened this morning. I came out of my favourite coffee shop and ran smack into Mortimer X, a charter member of SWAC (Senior Whiners and Complainers). I won’t get into detail but most of what he complains about fits into one broad category—everything. “Good morning,” I said, and without thinking added, “How are you?”

He pulled no punches. “I got a bone spur on my tailbone the size of a hockey puck and it pinches every nerve between my head and my ass. This morning my arm went numb when I sat up in bed. My wife, Vera, was preoccupied in the upstairs bathroom so I yelled that I was having a heart attack. In her hurry to finish so she could call an ambulance she knocked her face cream into the toilet while it was flushing making it clog up and overflow. Vera hardly ever swears so when I heard her cussing, I forgot about my arm and ran to the bathroom. I bent over to shut off the water and my glasses fell into the toilet at the same time as I twisted something in my back. I see as well as a blindfolded bat so to get my glasses I’m up to my elbow in the overflowing toilet wearing only my bathrobe when our cat gets under it and swipes at the only thing it sees hanging. We never had the cat declawed so when the ambulance arrives the paramedics didn’t find a heart attack but they put me on a stretcher anyway because of the blood that was dripping out of my scratched scrotum. They laughed so hard at the nature of my injury that they dropped the stretcher and I hit my head and now I’ve got a concussion. The pee and water leaked through the floor and the light fixture and dripped all over our new white sofa that I bought with my credit card to get points so we could go to Mexico for a vacation which I can’t go on now because I can’t fly due to the concussion. I would have hated it anyway because my back is sore.”

Mortimer is one of those individuals who doesn’t believe in bad luck. He knows there’s a reason for everything. He went on to tell me that none of this would have happened if it weren’t for today’s teenagers, gay marriage and Asian drivers.

I confess that I too have been known to do my fair share of beefing, bitching and bellyaching. Hopefully, some of it has been mitigated by my slow realisation that I know less now than I once did. The big surprise is that not knowing everything lets me enjoy more of life.

Lest I be accused of complaining and whining about the complainers and whiners, I’ve decided to list some things that have made life more-than-worthwhile since I’ve become a senior. The list is not long as unfortunately, the rusted-out synapses that cause me to forget negatives have also erased some good memories. I now know that many of the things that make my life meaningful, lend enjoyment and cause laughter have re-occurred for years. Others have only happened once. Here are a few in the order that I retrieved them from my mental storage bin:

  • A recent chance to see and reminiscence with old friends, some of whom I’ve known for more than 60 years,
  • Going to see The Lion King,
  • The annual holiday week with family, this year on Saturna Island,
  • Early morning coffee and writing at Sunrise Restaurant in San Antonio,
  • Kristen Chenowyth’s singing,
  • Early morning coffee and writing at Gourmet Donuts & Coffee in Walnut Grove,
  • Hearing Judy laugh (even when she’s laughing at me),
  • Taking grandson, Ren to The Honeybee Centre in Langley and watching his sheer enjoyment,
  • Watching grandson, Callum’s baseball games,
  • Running road races with Kristy, Kelty, Callum, Ren and Judy,
  • Reading and talking to an audience where everyone laughs a lot,
  • Watching kids splash in the pool at Birds of Paradise staff parties,
  • Books provide much pleasure. Here are a few that have blown me away recently and in the past (look elsewhere for reviews). Incidentally, reading to re-enforce political or religious beliefs doesn’t cause an increase of even one degree on my enjoyment meter.
    • The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr
    • Silk by Alessandro Baricco
    • Men at Work by George F. Will (I defy anyone to read this book and not become a baseball fan)
    • The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers
    • Goodnight Sammy Wong by Michael J. Cullen
    • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
    • Flash Boys by Michael Lewis
    • Everything written by Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce and W.P. Kinsella

And a few items dredged up from the more distant past:

  • The poem, Agony and Ecstasy, and others by Mark Sconce,
  • The performance of Allen McGill in Ancestral Voices at Lakeside Little Theatre,
  • The hike into El Salto waterfall at Mazamitla and in particular doing it with Karla and Leif, two young people who are adventurous, enjoy life, and who never complain,
  • Carol Bedford’s performance and singing in Carousel,
  • Callum enjoying the card we sent him and demonstrating it by memorizing the little story we had written on the card, and
  • A trip by boat up a river by Tenacatita—a first for me was seeing crabs crawling up trees.

Back when I knew the solution to every personal conundrum, every world problem and the manner in which every other driver on the road should behave, I found it frustrating that others didn’t recognise my expertise or follow my prescripts. The frustration still ebbs and flows, but the overall intensity has abated and with it the length of time irritation, bitterness and acrimony take up residence in my person. Their absence has left a spare room in my soul which is now occupied by many of the joys listed above.

So, what do I know now that I didn’t know before? Unlike Mortimer, I know that teenagers are as curious, foolish and full of life as they have always been, that gay marriages are just as wonderful and just as disagreeable as other marital unions, and that Asian drivers will cause the same number of accidents as other groups with the exception of seniors who will cause more. I also know that it’s prudent to steer clear of militant radical groups such as whiners, dog owners and vegans.

Posted on September 7, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. What an enjoyable Article, Neil ! I will save it and read it when I am feeling grumpy . Good for You and thanks for this !
    Sylvia fukami

  2. Yes, it’s important to count your “blessings” every day. Life is pretty good! Just dropped Callum and his friend off for their first day of high school. All the grade 8’s were huddled together at the side of the school, fresh faced and shiny, nervous but eager….made my heart full.

  3. Great article!

  4. Many of your fans don’t know that you are an enthusiastic archaeologist, Neil. How else could you dig up that ancient poem by me you mentioned in your recent blog. I thank you for its mere mention and am truly honored that you liked it…so much so that I herein e-mail you a signed copy.
    Mark Sconce

    The Agony and Ecstasy of Writing

    O Writers, O you chosen ones!
    And Poetasters on the run,
    As I describe your agony
    And then perhaps your ecstasy.
    Come closer now, sit next to me–

    You agonize, as is your wont,
    You wonder why your face is gaunt,
    You question why your soul lies bare
    And contemplate your deep despair.

    Before becoming too distraught,
    Just look what agony hath wrought:

    Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau,
    And Walden’s Pond by Hank Thoreau,
    And then the Isle of Innisfree,
    That Butler Yeats’ soliloquy.

    Each one has caused a furrowed brow,
    The same as yours is doing now.
    So never quit, no never, never,
    But double down on your endeavor.

    “Ars longa,” wrote Hippocrates.
    And “Vita brevis,” notes Louise.
    “Agony lingers; ecstasy flies.”
    Don’t ask me why we Latinize.
    To some it’s Greek; to others Latin,
    To some it sounds like Alex Grattan.

    But I digress…

    Our agony has many parents.
    Permit me now to name a few.
    Though some are more or less apparent,
    Still others are, I fear, quite new…

    Computers lead the way I guess,
    We oft become their slave
    And to them every thought confess
    And then forget to SAVE!

    Greek Chorus: Agony!

    And in our native solitude,
    We write of meadows sweet
    And every other platitude,
    Then calmly click delete.

    Greek chorus: Agony!

    Alone in your Cialis tub,
    “Perchance to dream, aye, there’s the rub.”
    But take the pill the morning after,
    Lest ALL your dreams give birth to laughter.

    Greek chorus: Agony!

    You write with joy and inspiration
    And suffer an ecstatic fit;
    You sleep, exhausted from creation,
    And in the morning find: it’s shit.

    Greek chorus: Agony!

    Good writers tend to agonize
    On every word they write.
    Their spouses they antagonize
    Until they get it right.

    Greek chorus: Agony!

    Those editors—those shears that snip.
    They love to over analyze.
    And oh the dread rejection slip!
    You wonder why we agonize?

    Greek chorus: Agony!

    It’s been two weeks, no end in sight.
    You grimly eye the clock.
    It doesn’t matter, day or night,
    You’ve got that writer’s block.

    Greek chorus: Agony!

    But suddenly you’re in the mood
    And to Cialis tub you go;
    The one beside you holds the Muse,
    And soon creative juices flow.

    Greek chorus: Ecstasy

    And what about the ecstasy
    That many writers seek and find?
    The out-of-body consciousness
    That overwhelms the mind.

    Greek chorus: Ecstasy

    The tears of joy, creation’s rain,
    That waters soul and soil alike.
    The heart, the head, the restless brain–
    All ravished by the soul’s delight.

    Greek chorus: Ecstasy

    And then there are the special times
    That make you cry Eureka!
    For instance, when you find a rhyme
    For Zeus or Tanganyika!

    Greek chorus: Eureka!

    And what about the Writer’s Group,
    Some twenty years in Ajijic?
    You’d have to be a nincompoop
    To miss a good critique.

    And here’s the best one, I suppose,
    The one that makes it all worthwhile,
    The one that wakes you from your doze,
    And takes you down the aisle.

    That cherished day a letter comes
    Addressed, it seems, to you…
    “We’re happy to inform you, sir:
    We have a rendezvous!”

    Our spirits soar in exaltation,
    And once again there reappears
    The awe of God…and inspiration…
    A sense of life…and love…and tears.

    Mark Sconce
    21 September 2010


  5. Great Mark, I like it even better the second time.

  6. You are just as nutty as ever, Neil. Thanks for a good laugh. Gayle and Ian

  7. This one makes me laugh and cry.

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