Friday, September 26, 2014

Theory 51: Old age reveals the true you.

Most children love to have their parents read to them, right? Sharky is supposed to do charitable work, on behalf of his school, each month. The first idea that popped into my mind (because it's sweet, communicative, and inexpensive) was for him to read to an elderly person at a local nursing home. Why? Because many elderly folks (particularly shut-ins) love to have someone read to them.

The old saying, "Once a man, twice a child" is the root of my theory. Great thinkers from Shakespeare to Sophocles to Plato spun their own unique phrases based on this truth. I agree.  Not only do we return to childish ways, we also reveal our true selves.

I watched my precious father-in-law, a gentleman who served as banking commissioner for the state of Tennessee, a philanthropist who led fundraising efforts for an Appalachian community, a husband and father who loved his family with great passion, a “good man” in every sense of the word, become a child in his last years.

It was hard to watch.

It was also sweet to see. Why? Because, even though he was frustrated, tired, and sometimes impatient, he became even more tolerant, more gentle, and kinder with age. That's not always the case, folks.

That's why I am writing Theory 51: Old age reveals the true you.

You always hear that elderly people suffering from dementia can get combative. I am sure there are medical and psychological reasons for this. I am NOT criticizing the sick. Helk, when I’m preoccupied, confused, or under mental duress, my children and students notice. Nothing is more stressful that managing a roaming toddler (or 212 teenagers) when you are worried about your marriage, your job, a diagnosis, a sick relative, etc. Delicious had a rough week around the anniversary of Pooh's death and admitted, "I am not fit to be out in public right now. I'll just say something mean to somebody." 

Well, Delicious is 67 years old. She is not mean, though she does have a quick wit and could nail some folks if she wanted to. Luckily, she also has maturity and composure. For now. Hmmm….

When I was a baby Bug, maybe 4 years old, Delicious, Pooh, and I were at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area in the Great Smoky Mountains. Pooh was rock-hopping and fly-fishing his way through the Little River as Delicious and I enjoyed onion dip, Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, Coca-Cola's, and playing at the river’s edge. A man walked through our site and chatted with Delicious. He noticed something, and said to me, "Come here. I want to show you something." I went to his side, where he pointed to a spot on a tree. He said, "Lean really close and look at this snail. He is climbing this tree." The old man and I, heads together, focused on the tiny creature, leaned within five inches of the hard-working snail. The man asked, "What do you think about that?" 

I replied, "He smells like onions!"

Think about all the humiliating phrases your toddlers have garbled out. Here are just a few I've heard from my own boys:

"Somebody in this car is F. A. T."
“Mama, where’d that man’s teeth go?”
And, for my twisted sisters, “#DTMFB!”

A few weeks ago, Delicious and I were cabin (more like dilapidated treehouse on the ground) window-shopping in Townsend, TN (The Peaceful Side of the Smokies).We dropped in to see our buddy-realtor. We walked into the office, and Delicious said, "Yay! I found the only person in Townsend bigger than I am!"

Geez. I tried to cover, but it was out there. Funny thing is, he just laughed and laughed. They are the same age. 

Roscoe's wife, a West Coast beauty with perfect skin and poise, often reminds her hot-headed husband, “Use your filters.”

Filters. That's what we lose!

We spend years 0-70 building and perfecting our filters at home, at work, in sports arenas, at parties with alcohol, and at church when people try to put us on committees. In our later years, our friends and family watch those decades of "personal improvement" disintegrate with one diagnosis or a couple of strong prescriptions. Ugh. 

I tell my smart-aleck students all the time, "You can think whatever you want. You just can’t say whatever you think."

I've read that a child's true personality develops by age 7. Suppose we all follow individual bell curves—child….up to man…back down to child again—does that mean we turn the impetuous 5-7 and reveal who we are and what we really think?


·         A man I knew, a successful farmer and businessman, was always well-behaved. However, when he got old, his doctor’s office asked him to use the back door because he talk-shouted offensive remarks at patients sitting around the waiting room.

·         One Christmas, my whole extended family was seated around Delicious’s dining room table enjoying chicken salad sandwiches, chili, and chocolate chip cookies when an aunt said, “You know, of all the grandchildren, BT has The. Best. In-laws. Hands down!” My whole extended family, including their spouses, were there.

·         A great aunt said to Delicious, back in an 80’s chubby spell, “Well, Delicious, you have gotten fat. And Bug is well on her way.”

·         In front of a crowd of men, women and children, an absent-minded in-law said, “Wow, Bug, I never realized how LARGE your breasts are!” (I was wearing a swimsuit.)

~ ~ ~ 

My grandmother, known here as “Buddy,” used to say, “Age is no excuse for rudeness.” Amen, Grandmama Buddy! Then again, if I can use senility as an excuse, I could really be free. FREE. Freeeeeeeeeeeee to say what I don’t have the guts to say these young days at 40  years old. Though I do, scarily, hear myself sentence-slipping now and then. I worry. If the real me is a tongue-lashing, lamp-throwing, waiting room harasser, will I even know? Heck, will I even care?

I’d like some fun feedback on this post, ya’ll. Here are some questions to ponder and answer:

1. When we age, we lose teeth, hair, flexibility, cartilage, elasticity, and filters. What else do we lose?

2. What has your child or an elderly relative said that humiliated you? How did you recover?

3. Do you think an old Tall Child will finally tell me to shut the helk up?

Sharky - Mouthy by Genetic Code
I CAN NOT WAIT to hear what the Twisted Sisters have to say in 20 years.

Help? Is anyone out there who can save me?

Ha!!! TGIF!!!

Comment here or on Facebook at Theories: Size 12!

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

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Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...