Column: When I grow old
(Every three or four years, I run this old column. I wrote it seventeen years ago when I thought I was old, and had just turned fifty. Those were the good old days, although at that time I didn't know that. The point is: Today is one of tomorrow's good old days - enjoy it.)
When I grow old, don't be surprised if I start to do things differently.
I'll grow my hair out, and my gray mustache. I'll tie what's left of my hair into a ponytail that will astonish people who love me, and puzzle those who don't. When they do look twice, and stare, I will merely reply: "Laissez faire. Let me be. Laissez faire."
For those ill-mannered people who stare, who don't understand the French language, I'll continue to master French words and sayings, partly to exasperate them, and partly because I have a knack for it. To those people who bore me, I will say: "Parlez vous Francais? N'est pa? No? Allez! Allez!'" Which means Get! And don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.
The boring people who don't love me will become confused and leave. Those who love me will become too confused to leave. They will whisper to one another: "What are we to do with him?"
No longer will I raise the toilet lid when I grow old. I've been doing it my whole life and I'm tired of it. When you're old, it's a chore to bend over and flip the thing up, so I shan't be able to reach it anyway, should I even want to. And who cares anyway?
I'll have five acres upon which to live, five acres that I will till for as long as I am able, because that is how my ancestors spent their lives - clinging to coveted ground, satisfied from a life made rewarding by harvests from the ground. And when I am no longer able to plow and plant, I will find peace in the time remaining to me, because I know that the ground will continue to honor me with a home, eternally.
I'll have lots of old tractors, two for each acre, because old tractors - with their simplicity and sturdiness - remind me of my youth, when life was simpler, and I was sturdier. I'll keep those tractors cleaned and polished in a heated garage with beaucoup doors in the front, and grande windows to let in the sunlight. Inside, there will be two of every tool, all spotless, one set to use, one to hang on the wall and admire.
When I grow old, you will have to come to my house to see me, because there won't be any telephone. Never again will I have to stop in the middle of lifting the lid, or whatever else I might be savoir fairing, to march off allegro to parlez vous with a tres dumb machine that wants to interrupt you.
When I grow old, I'm going to spend my children's inheritance foolishly, and live in a style to which I am not accustomed. And I'll not save any money for a tomorrow that may or may not come, and may or may not be mine to command when it does come. Before the money is gone, I'll buy fancy ice creams and flying lessons; gaudy old juke boxes full of flashing lights and '50s ballads. I'll have sleek red cars that are close to the ground so it is easy for an old man to fall down into them, but which my children will have to help me out of when I motor splendidly into their yard for a visit.
I'll spend gaily on a lifetime supply of my favorite black licorice, or old tractors at auction, or colored balloons. "C'est la vie," I will say to those who love me and are confused, "C'est la vie."
And finally, when I am gone, those who come after me will say: "Remember when he came to see us in that aeroplane? Or, remember that old jukebox he was always tinkering on? Or, those old tractors? Still confused about it all, nonetheless, they will remember me.
So remember now, and don't be startled when all this starts to happen. Matter of fact, I'm going to practice for when I get old by not liftez-uppez la toilette liddez next time I sashez off to la commodez.
Comprendez vous? Do you understand?
When I grow old, and you come to visit, think before you speak.
And look before you sit.
Don't be surprised.