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Senescence

Little old men– bodies stooped and hesitant , hands shakey and spotted, eyes faded and gentled, voices gravelly and subdued, faces lined and slackened–somehow steal my heart.

I was eating out with friends today when three such gentlemen arrived for what must have been a special outting for them. They could have been in their late seventies but at least one had to be an octogenarian.He was slowly helped to his seat by the two shuffling buddies, each supporting a thin, limp arm. It took at least five minutes for them to get him seated and pulled to the table. He looked confused but cooperative as his younger friends worked with a kind determination that took much of their waning strength to get him settled. When they were finally able to sit themselves, there was much huffing and puffing and chortling at themselves for the effort they had put out and the success they had achieved.

As I ate I couldn’t take my eyes from this wonderful threesome. The eldest and most feeble one had dressed, or someone had dressed him, in “Sunday clothes”, and his sparse white hair was neatly parted and slicked to his head. He spoke very little and nodded a lot.He looked like his name could be Jim, perhaps because he reminded me of someone. His friends were more casually dressed, but neat and one had on wide red suspenders and a baseball type cap, but took it off and placed it in the extra chair beside him. His gray hair stood up in the back when he pulled the cap off and I wanted to give him a hug. I thought his name could be Bud.

It was a buffet meal, and Jim sat silently while Bud went through the line to get Jim’s food. Bud was gone at least 15 minutes but when he returned it was with a huge grin on his face and a precariously balanced tray with a feast of mashed potatoes and gravy, butter beans and meatloaf. Then he was off again to get his own dinner which was a duplicate of the first plate. The third friend got corn on the cob and fried chicken, so I decided he must have the best teeth or dentures and digestive system of the three. He looked like a Joe.

A fair amount of grunting came from the table as repast was taken very slowly and deliberately, and I took the sounds to signal appreciation of the meal. The waitress Dian (she wore a name tag) was very attentive to this group, and they enjoyed bandying humorous dialogue with their female server.They clearly enjoyed the attention and Bud and Joe were all but standing on their heads to elicit a laugh from the pretty young Dian. Jim used this time to examine his meatloaf before each bite, as if reminding himself what he was eating.

I had to go before they were finished, and I made a point of walking by their table, catching Bud’s eye and smiling hello. He gave me a somewhat surprised return smile and the most gentlemanly nod I’ve ever seen.

Jim, Bud and Joe have been on my mind off and on all day. Something about their quiet dignity and Bud and Joe’s friendship with Jim really touched me. I sincerely hope that I have such good old buddies when my golden years arrive.

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High school reunion coming up. My class had some of the brightest kids ever. And then there was Darren.

Darren was a real class clown. Found fun in the oddest ways. In chemistry class one fine spring day, Darren decided he just had to get his hands on some of that chemical that the teacher had said would catch fire if exposed to liquid. When Mr. Burns had to leave the room for a few minutes, Darren saw his opportunity. He snitched some from the cabinet where it was stored, slipped it in his shirt pocket, then sat throught the rest of class, excited if somewhat nervous. Bell finally rang, class was over, and Darren made a mad dash through the classroom door. All his guy friends who knew what he had done crowded around him, not ten feet from the room from which he had just escaped, all congratulating him on his daring escapade.

Suddenly, the huge grin on Darren’s face froze. Smoke began curling around his ears. Everybody jumped back. An ear-piercing scream rose from Darren’s throat and reached all the way down the hall to principal Downer’s office. A hall full of bug-eyed students suddenly realized what had happened. Darren was on fire!! He tugged frantically at his jacket, trying to remove it. It was in flames.. His nylon shirt was melting into his skin. Poor Darren had oozed so much sweat waiting for class to end that it had mixed with the chemical, and poof, he had gone up in smoke!

Fortunately, his burns healed. The whole class had to suffer through lectures from both Mr Burns and Principal Downer, to say nothing of extra homework and a week of pop tests. But we all agreed on one thing.
It was the best chemistry experiment we ever saw.

Traumatic Amputation

I’ve never been much of a “machine person.” That is, until five years ago the only thing I could tell you about lawn mowers and weed eaters is that they make irritatingly loud noises & that the man who mows my yard uses them quite expertly. And at great cost to me!

Circumstances change, however, and today I am the half- owner/operator of two lawnmowers, three weed eaters, a monster brush mower, a powerful trimmer mower, a frightening chain saw, an amazing tiller, and a partridge in a pear tree! Just kidding about the partridge. Not the tree.

It’s all because I inherited some beautiful but overgrown property, with three spring-fed ponds and a creek and a neat little cabin….all in need of immediate and serious back-breaking attention.

What I have learned so far: Power tools such as I now “control” certainly can perform amazing feats. But now for the downside. It’s called TRAUMATIC AMPUTATION. Translation: this machine is viciously aggressive and eager to remove my left foot, my favorite hand, the very nose off my face. The literature with these tools emphasizes the possibly of TRAUMATIC AMPUTATION in bold letters on several pages in graphic detail as well as on the machine itself so there’s no chance you can claim in your suit against Toro: well nobody told me the lawn mower would cut my left foot off if I stuck it under said machine. Now, give me a million bucks.

Traumatic amputation as opposed to what, un-traumatic amputation? I would think any removal of a limb or digit from my body would be traumatic. I guess the point they wish to make is that if you want your hand removed, it’s better to have it done by skilled surgeons in an antiseptic hospital with a gaggle of nurses as opposed to having it done by a Cub Cadet mower on the side of the pond surrounded by a family of croaking bullfrogs.

So this I have learned. Disconnect the sparkplug, disconnect the sparkplug, disconnect the sparkplug before you start fiddling with the dang machine. Also, don’t climb up a ladder with a chainsaw, or the limb you lop off may be your own. (They make what’s called a hand saw or a pole saw for these kinds of endeavors.) A smooth-running self-propelled push mower is a beautiful thing, but don’t be pushing one of those gems up a hill. TRAUMATIC AMPUTATION doesn’t begin to cover the damage a “slip down” could cause.

OK, I am through with this subject. It’s just something I have to face every weekend my husband and I head out to conquer the pernicious growth that sprouts and flourishes without need of sun or rain or nutrients of any kind. No doubt about it. Nature has the upper hand.But husband and I are up to the fight. As we each roll out with one of our great powerful machines each weekend, our last words to each other before heading our separate ways — come back with both feet or don’t come back at all.