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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Citizen journal: Reassurance for the long of tooth

By Darin Krogh Special to The Spokesman-Review

As we humans age and technology whips the confidence out of us, we need some assurance that we aren’t totally out of the loop. We hope the world isn’t changing so fast that we boomers will be left out. I am satisfied with putting on phony pretenses and the occasional out-right lie in order to appear to be “with it” to younger folk.

When I get asked by a young person to give my phone number, I say TEMPLE-8-2242.

The younger generation of computer-know-it-alls usually respond, “The TEMPLE of what?”

They think that I have a computer based telephone system. Historical ignorance works against them.

Little do they realize that a few decades ago, Dick Tracy had the only cellphone in America. Back then, Spokane had only land lines, and each phone number had a prefix like FAIRFAX, KEYSTONE, WALNUT, HUDSON or TEMPLE. The caller dialed the first two letters of the prefix name. The letters were coupled with numbers on the rotary phone dial. After dialing those first two letters of the prefix, the dialer followed up with five numbers.

Some years before that, you dialed the first two letters and only four subsequent numbers. I own an antique whiskey jug that says, TELEPHONE “MAIN 731”, MILL & SPRAGUE, SPOKANE WASH.

I enjoy being perceived as “computer advanced” instead of a dial-up-modem-stone-age-man. Whatever white or black lie is useful, I’m “down with it”.

But appearing to be cool (ha!) is not enough for senior citizens, we need proof of our continued existence.

It’s easy for the aged to feel a bit like Shakespeare’s King Lear these days. An obsolete King Lear. My children are conspiring against me. They have begun to have children of their own in an effort to make me feel old and stodgy.

I am having age issues – body breakdown, mental lapses – but my kids could not be satisfied with that. They had to kick me while I was down by adding “grandfather” to the AARP mailing me an application form every month.

It’s not dementia that I have, it’s a little forgetfulness because my mind is cluttered. I have to cram all those pin numbers and passwords into a brain that decades ago used up memory space for things like the rules to Parcheesi and the optimum temperature of fondue cooking oil.

When we middle-age persons wake up in the morning in bed, we just want to lay there until the joints stop aching, the muscles stop hurting and our heads clear up. But our aged bladders and – for men – bulging prostates force us to rise and leave our nocturnal haven for the cold porcelain convenience in the bathroom. After enduring the pain of getting out of bed, why go back to it and have to rise only to endure it all over again?

But rise, we must. Lest the world pass us by. Rising and interfering with the world confirms our existence.

We won’t find assurances that life goes on by lying there in the sack looking out of the bedroom window.

My kids grew up, they and their friends went to college or took up careers and jobs. Some joined the military and went to the Middle East.

They endured complex training (much more than my U.S. Army of 40 years ago). Now they have rifles that can see around corners.

These friends of my kids and young relatives don’t brag or lord over others with their coming-home war stories, they are quiet about it, like soldiers of previous wars, back to World War II. These kids served their time, then just slipped back into civilian life and picked up where they left off, probably more savvy from their war experience. That reassures me.

Holidays are reassuring too. I covertly hate Christmas and Thanksgiving – 30 years working for an airline ruined it for me. But Christmas coming back every year is an event that proves life goes on with some continuity. And adding another Thanksgiving turkey to the previous 60 or 70 that I’ve eaten is confirming that life is continuous.

The big lifetime reassurances for me are cheerleading and weddings. Both institutions still flourish and have for decades. What could be crazier than the whole cheerleading phenomenon? ANSWER: marriage. We still get all excited for the groom and bride although we know the divorce statistics. We all suspend judgment together for the ceremony and reception. And life goes on.

We made it out of bed today, so give us another chance
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