“When I Was Your Age”
By: Garland Davis
I am officially “OLD.” I was not aware of how critical the situation had become until a recent incident brought it alarmingly to my attention. I was talking with an acquaintance in his late forties and I happened to say, “I’ll tell you, when I was your age…”
I went silent. Not because I had forgotten what I meant to say (that happens more often than I care to admit), but because I was shocked. I heard myself sounding like every old person I had encountered during my life. I was repeating the very thing that people had said to me back in the day. You know, back in the day when you were, well not so old.
Of course, I knew that I was getting older. I could see it sometimes in the mirror. I think that we see ourselves in the mirror so much that the gradual changes of aging fail to register until one morning you suddenly wonder, “Who is this old SOB looking back at me from the mirror? That can’t be me.”
Nevertheless, it is. Time has crept up on me. Now when I go to the Navy Exchange, I find myself wondering why the Navy is promoting teenagers to Chief Petty Officer…and who that four striper knew to be promoted to Captain so young… Why the heck did they scrap the USS Kitty Hawk, they just built it. And you cannot help getting up at 5 am in the morning, no matter how late you were up the night before, sometimes as late as 9 pm or so.
Not old. That happened to others. I can’t place an actual number on old. I do believe it involves knowing how neat comfort height toilets are, and knowing that leaving my turn signal on is because I am going to turn left—sometime soon.
I didn’t really know I was young in my youth. I knew I was young by the restrictions. Much of youth is waiting. Waiting for sixteen so you can drive…Waiting for seventeen so you can enlist…Waiting for twenty-one so you can vote and purchase alcohol legally. I only realized this in retrospect.
Whenever I ask my old (there is that word again) shipmates their thoughts about getting older, the conservation usually leads to discussions of various ailments, in gruesome detail, and the attendant medications. We gripe about Medicare, Tricare, the VA, and the young, know nothing doctors. Often the discussions get down to the subject of regularity; you know frequency and quality of bowel movements. When hemorrhoids become the subject, the bottom of the barrel is in sight.
About this time, someone will tell the story of a corpsman on the old Dicky B. Anderson who thought he could cure everything with aspirin. Then it will get down to who can tell the biggest lie. Then we are young again living out our pasts vicariously in the BS and sea stories that we share with shipmates.
We are told that with age comes wisdom. How’s that workin’ out for you? It hasn’t really panned out for me. But I figure, “What the hell, with Google, I can know as much as the next guy.”
And perhaps I am just wise enough to realize that, even at this age, I may run into someone who might say to me, “When I was your age….” And this time I won’t roll my eyes.