Middle age: You heard it here first

When I first started writing about my children 20 years ago, I was the only dad in the world. No one else had ever before experienced the amazements, the bafflements, the flooded basements of parenthood. It was really something, and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it.

Of course, the only thing unique was that it was happening to me. Over time, I realized that my parenting experiences weren’t much different from those of, oh, every single parent ever. I wasn’t that special.

Middle age, on the other hand! Let me tell you about middle age!

When I was young, I knew of course that I was going to get old. I saw the white hair, the wrinkles, the frail, stooped postures. In Grade 6, our music teacher made our class listen to Harry Nilsson’s “I’d Rather Be Dead (Than Wet My Bed),” so that was a bit of an eye-opener.

I knew aging was inevitable, but like each generation, I simply assumed old people were doing it wrong. “That’s not how I’m going to get old,” we told ourselves. “Shuffling along like that, napping in our chairs, putting out bowls of candies that sit so long they become one giant, sticky clump. No way! And what’s with the polyester pants?”

No one told us, though, that aging begins, well, now. They didn’t mention that strange things would start happening to our bodies in our forties, that strange things would start happening to our teeth. Our teeth! Shifting around all over the place. Who knew?

I recently learned that one of my high school classmates is getting divorced. On top of everything else he’s going through, I imagine the prospect of dating again must be terrifying. I’d certainly be freaking out, and not because of the emotional baggage and lumpy bodies we’re carrying around or the fact that our hairlines are fading faster than Barack Obama’s credibility. I’d be terrified of dining out – the prospect of all that food getting stuck in my teeth. This never used to happen. But now? I can store entire loaves of bread in there. I look at my teeth after a meal and it’s like a scene from Lunch of the Living Dead. So a dinner date? The only thing I’d be able to order would be clear broth.

All to say that this is why I need to keep being nice to my wife.

Oh, and, by the way, polyester pants make for perfectly sensible work wear.

Thankfully, middle age isn’t all bad news. There are some pleasant surprises as well.

Sleepovers, for instance. Over Thanksgiving weekend, I spent the night in my daughter Katie’s college dorm, which sounds like the setup for a sit-com, but it was all on the up-and-up and no less hygienic than I remember from my own student days. Besides being impressed that she gave up her room for me and her brother, I like the idea of being invited into the new, separate lives our children are building for themselves. They’re becoming adults, and more and more I’m just a spectator – preferably a spectator with a comfy pillow.

And cussin’. I can finally swear with impunity in front of my kids without pretending to myself that they don’t. Not that the air in our house is thick with it but sometimes a raunchy adjective is exactly what’s called for, though when Katie walks into the room and calls out, “What’s up, bitches!” I know she’s doing it just to irritate me and, yes, I glare; someone has to maintain some fucking standards around here!

Then there’s just plain not giving a damn. I’ve walked outside in my work clothes (polyester) and my wife’s fuzzy pink slippers because I can’t be bothered to put my shoes back on. It’s liberating, I tell you. I’ve retrieved the newspaper from the street in my boxer shorts and felt no shame, even when our neighbour from up the street has driven by. I give her a good-morning wave. She’s recently divorced, too. I wonder if she likes soup…

Finally, there’s the gaining of wisdom, something I lacked when my children were small. Middle age grants me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to shut up about it.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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41 Responses to Middle age: You heard it here first

  1. candidkay says:

    I love this. From the dating in middle age to the getting older with grace–you nailed it:). I’ve written about the same things–but I laugh more at other people’s stuff than my own–so thanks for a good laugh this AM . . .

  2. Amanda Fox says:

    I totally understand the clear broth. If I was smart, I’d have a thing of dental floss in my purse, but I don’t, because I can’t think that far ahead. I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall in the dorm LOL.

  3. Love this! Funny and the part about being part of your kids’ new, adult lives is so sweet! Get some floss!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Seriously. I used to be like Ellen Degeneres once said: “I floss religiously — Christmas and Easter.” But I’m a born-again flosser these days. TMI? Wait a sec — who am I asking?

  4. Scott Waugh says:

    Nice!

  5. cat9984 says:

    I’m supposed to admit I’m getting older? You Canadians are no fun whatsoever! 🙂

  6. I think you’re a little younger than me, but, after the loaf of bread image, I shall never dine with you.

  7. I’m looking forward to becoming a spectator in my children’s lives. Sometimes I pretend, and then reality comes crashing in when I hear, “Mommy, I pooped, come wipe my bum” from the bathroom. Sigh.

  8. Allister Matheson says:

    Love reading your stories Ross. They’re always good for a chuckle. Thanks.
    I can relate to the teeth moving around and the food stuck in them but the worst part is the wearing of the food. Food that sometimes misses the mouth or escapes the bites, no longer hits the floor and gets ignored. There is now a barrier between mouth and floor…the ever expanding belly!!!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Ha! The wearing of stains, like The Scarlet Letter, except it’s The Garlic Butter. I’m proud to say, though, Al, that due to my lightning metabolism I am still as sleek as ever (read: skinny runt). Good to hear from you!

  9. pinklightsabre says:

    If there was a Love button, I’d be hitting it right now. Seems we have a bit in common with the teeth and the shifting, and the walking about in garish slippers. I did some of that last night, though worse, by the illumination of the moon. I look forward to swearing with my kids w/o guilt, and sleeping in their dorm rooms too. You paint some nice pictures here.

  10. Hmm. So normal people wait until their kids are teens to start swearing? Interesting. Too late, but interesting.
    ^K.

  11. I hope I never wake up with a yen for a pant suit.

    Rosemary, it’s totally liberating to wear boxer shorts everywhere – and see if you can start to wear jammie bottoms to work…if start it right, you’ll be wearing them at semi-regular intervals. For $99 (Canadian), I’ll tell ya how.

  12. Great post.

    It is quite an interesting perspective we carry, is it not, of how different we would be when we get old. But time and age are such great equalisers. All those “assets” of ours- our looks, our arrogance , no longer remain. So what could be the intrinsic aspects within us we could continue to be anchored to? Could it be our values?

    Shakti

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Good points. I think values change, however, with age, or perhaps they solidify. I guess it depends on how well they were instilled in the first place. And I would argue, by the way, that arrogance doesn’t necessarily fade with age… 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  13. nobsj says:

    In the spirit of your Grade 6 music class:

  14. Letizia says:

    I love the idea of having sleepovers again!

  15. benzeknees says:

    I think the part of middle age I like the best – not caring about what others think, so I can do what I want!

  16. javaj240 says:

    Your Grade 6 music teacher had interesting taste! As I recall, mine was a big fan of “The White Album”! Here’s to Harry, who sadly got his wish way too soon!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Funny you should mention, because I had a teacher around the same time who made us “exercise” to “Obladi-Oblada,” and I’ve hated that song ever since. Harry was a good one.

  17. lisakunk says:

    Yep, my husband feels a little too free to cuss around the kids now too. What’s up with that?

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