I've been thinking some about aging and dying recently. Before you scream "Morbid bastard!" and "You're still young!", I should mention that this September was a milestone for me. I am now older than my father was when he died. I'm on free time now and I'm not about to take any of it for granted. I will waste it, I will fritter it away, but I will not take it for granted. I may piss it away, but I will appreciate being able to do so.
My sixty year old friend L.P. and I go out to Trumble's Restaurant together for breakfast. He isn't actually 60 years old, he's been my friend for 60 years, pretty much in an unbroken line. I'm certain I have mentioned it before, but Lyle is funny. He will tell a dry joke with a 50 year set up - something that only two people in the whole world will get, and never crack a smile saying it. I appreciate that.
When you pull into the Trumble parking lot the first thing you notice is the cars. There might be a Caddy or two scattered here and there across the lot, and maybe an SUV, but the overwhelming vehicle of choice for the middle-class senior set are Buicks, usually silver or white. Probably slightly used Buicks ... but with low mileage. L.P. doesn't trust any of their driving skills (any more than he trusts mine) so we have to park way off to the rear, away from any potential action. Trumble's is a fairly large restaurant and when we are escorted into the dining room I'm alway's stunned - we are invariably the two youngest people in the place. Some people say that being around young people keeps you young. Maybe, but if you want to really feel young, go hang out with old people, really old people - people in walkers and funny hats - the Trumblers.
The potentially lethal Buicks at Trumble's remind me of my grandfather, N.C. Berg, the worst driver I ever knew. He had a personal body man the way most people have a barber or a dentist. After a while the word got out locally and when he parked at church or in front of the cafe, nobody would park behind him. He tended to back up until there was a thud, put 'er in Drive and go. If you whack enough of them, eventually they'll give you room to operate.
Once I pulled in at my grandparents and their big ol' green boat of a Pontiac was parked in the informal visitors row. The side of the Pontiac was in bad shape. This wasn't particularly unusual, but the degree was. It looked as if he had been sideswiped by a runaway truck. The whole driver's side was scraped and gouged, the paint, chrome and mirror were missing. It was a mess. As I stepped inside I asked what happened to the car. "Well, I always backed out and to the left, and I kept hitting the windmill. So I thought I'd back out and turn to the right and then drive around the windmill instead. The first time I did it, I backed into that big maple tree on the right. So the next time I cramped the wheel hard to get turned before the maple tree. But I hadn't cleared the garage yet and I scraped the car on the side of the door opening." Grandma Nellie laughed and said," The reason the car is outside is that he also tore off the door frame and the garage door track, and the garage door has fallen down in the way." Ol' N.C. just grinned with his eyes twinkling at his own misfortune. Damn, I miss that old man.