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Column: When the world sees you as older

ritchie, bob

ritchie, bob

Fortunately, there are still people older than I who call me a kid. Problem is I am beginning to realize that the day will come when there will be no one telling me they are old enough to be my father or mother.

Those of us who live to a ripe old age will have challenges many never face. What people say, or do not say, will be the least of our worries. Yet, most of us claim living a long life is better than the alternative.

This week I arrived at a new age plateau. Not as in new age music, but more like the new age of my sixties. Each time the first digit of my age changes it takes a long while for it to sink in that I am in a new decade of life. I am 66 and only just realizing I turned 60.

During a recent seminary class, our professor handed out materials for an upcoming trip. Among them was to be his grading of a recent writing assignment inclusive of his margin comments.

I looked for my paper, but could not find it. To prevent any possible embarrassment, I searched the file three times. Then I raised my hand to announce that my paper was not included.

Before my professor could respond, several in the room to whom I could be father gave me points of direction. “It is the last paper in there.” “It is in the back.” “It is right after...”

What do they think I am, senile? Not yet my friends, I thought rather unconfidently. I was afraid to look at my file for fear the paper might “reappear.” Thankfully, the paper did not.

I stared down the young brood who had come to the aid of a helpless old man — me. I could identify with those in nursing homes who have to listen to people talk to them in baby talk. It was the word “identify” coupled with old that frightened me. Am I too imaginative?

Several days later I was given another lesson. This time in Peterborough’s Twelve Pines. I wanted to order what Starbucks calls a Caffe Misto, but I am so Starbucks trained that I couldn’t remember what the drink was called in other coffee venues.

“Which drink is made with coffee rather than espresso?” I asked the young woman who could have been my daughter.

Rather than naming one, she explained all the espresso drinks to me. I let her finish before I asked again. “But which one is made with coffee?”

She gave me a quick appraisal. I could only assume she saw me no differently this second time because she repeated the espresso explanation all over again. Eventually I must have said a magic word, or she finally took me for someone younger (there is always hope), because I heard, “Cafe au lait is made with coffee.”

“That’s it,” I cried in relief. She handed me an empty coffee cup that matched my order. Hesitating at the counter for a brief instant, I expected more directions, but none were forthcoming. I walked the short walk to the coffee pots and filled my cup half full with decaf.

Have any of you had these experiences of direction presumably due to your looking older? How do you handle them? Email me at fictionfitz@gmail.com. Bring back the bliss of my sixties. If you do, I might even update my picture included with this column.

Bob Ritchie is pastor of Bennington Congregational Church and a regular contributor.

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