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Older men are attracted to me.  Considering I am 47, when I say older, I mean turn of the last century old.   The more bypasses and body part replacements they have had, the more appealing I seem.  And I have to say, their fedora wearing – let me get that door for you demeanor is very becoming in this day and age.  Those same qualities however, make them think it is rather okay to offer up counseling, suggestions or random thoughts as they see fit.

It began at work.  Ernie, nearing 80, posted work encouragements around the office, simple stuff like – On time means being early.

One of my favorites was – If you drop something, pick it up.

Okay, not exactly inspirational but I looked forward to his musings.   He would drop by my desk each morning on his way back from getting coffee to make sure I had read his post and mutter an innocently flirtatious comment about my legs. As I’ve said before, a compliment is a compliment (see post below). I’m not even sure Ernie was still on the payroll but that didn’t stop him from coming to the office each day to remind us slackers to pick things up.  The work ethic of Ernie’s generation is incomparable.  Considering our age-group thinks roughing it is a technology-free hour, I am surprised they can even stand us.

Two recent encounters with octogenarians made me smile at the bittersweetness of age.

89 shuffled behind me in the food store as I prayed I was below fifteen items.  I didn’t want to be lectured for holding up the express line even though 89 and his cohorts have absolutely no where else to go.  Rules are rules and they are sticklers for the rules.  As my grandfather (who never saw active military duty) often reminded me, If you don’t follow rules, you get shot.  89 said hello once he tallied my fourteen groceries; he leaned on the belt, breathing heavy and removed his fedora.  There is something about old-fashioned manners.  He looked dapper in a worn brown suit hanging a bit on his gaunt frame, his pocket handkerchief folded intricately and a twinkle in his watery blue eyes.

I smiled.  And where are you off to today? he asked me as he painfully placed 5 cans on the conveyor belt – well under the legal limit.  I told him I was dropping my youngest to school then heading to work.  Most likely 89 lived in the senior housing behind the store and this could be the highlight of his day.  He moved like he was dancing mentioning how he wished he was young again. 89 rattled on about weather, his gaze settling on the magazines prominently displaying scantily clad women.  I heard him whoop; he interrupted my payment and pointed to the Cosmo cover featuring a buxom Rihanna.  Who is she?  he asked, his eyes full of mischief.  I explained who Rihanna is and he whistled.  Look at this, he pointed to a headline written in bold type:

WHAT DO MEN REALLY WANT IN MAY?

Before I had a chance to respond, 89 stated matter-of-factly, I’ll tell you what men want in May, the same thing they want in January and February and March and every other month of the year!  He laughed until he started to cough.  I laughed too.

My parents and in-laws chat incessantly with their favorite cashiers, sales people and waiters, knowing them all on a very familiar basis.  My mother-in-law was even invited to her dental hygienist’s wedding.  Do the elderly have so much time on their hands that they inspire conversation or are they just that friendly? Speaking of my father, I can assure you he is not that friendly.  I wonder if he hollers at the busboy the way he does my 11 year old for wearing his baseball cap inside the house.  Clearly they save their best for those who pour their coffee.

Most days, I can’t afford chattiness.  I’m all business, although cordial, I don’t want to hear an opinion on the cookies I’m about to purchase or how I’m not dressed warm enough. But 89 slowed me down enough to realize without our connection, I wouldn’t have started my day with such amusement.

Recently, I was in Starbucks waiting for my latte when 85 inquired about unsweetened iced-tea with lemon.  Chaos ensued as Alicia, the barista, explained they didn’t have real lemons and suggested adding a splash of lemonade.  85 wasn’t buying it.  I explained the lemonade would add a bit of sweetness and lemon flavor and he graciously accepted my recommendation.   I do fashion myself quite the Starbucks connoisseur and expected him to call me a whippersnapper any minute.  As we moved to the end of the coffee bar, 85 asked Alicia if she went to college.  She responded yes and 85 told her that was good because she wouldn’t want to pour coffee for the rest of her life. The 19 year old looked a bit uncomfortable with that comment but smiled sweetly. 85 proceeded with his unsolicited career advice, you better not be majoring in the arts…he looked at me for agreement, because if you major in the arts you will be right here pouring coffee for the rest of your life.  I almost spit out my chai tea. 85 continued, I am right, come on you have to agree with me. In my day, we had to be practical. You know what I am talking about.

I did know exactly what he was talking about. Having taken the safe road all my life, I couldn’t bring myself to agree.  I shook my head and said lightheartedly, Well you don’t want to get to your forties and not be fulfilled – I say, do what you love.  I could tell 85 was readying himself for a good debate and as much as I would have loved to ponder college majors, I needed to get to work.   And I certainly would have lost.

Before I left though, he made my day.  85 bowed slightly, you forty? can’t be, my dear, can’t be.

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