The Dog Guy

Twenty five years ago, when I thought exercise was the path to Nirvana, I worked out three or four days a week at the Independence Park Pool in Fullerton, California.  For the most part, the noontime swimming contingent was made up of serious lap swimmers, most of us training for triathlons.  But there was one old guy named Harry … he was probably a little older than I am now and had the same slightly out of shape, old guy physique.  Harry swam with what my high school swimming coach called a Red Cross Freestyle … not a complement … and he’d paddle a few laps just to look like he belonged.   Really, he wanted to talk.   I probably had my best workouts when he was in the lane next to me because if I stopped to rest, he’d start gabbing.   In those days, it seemed like no matter where I went, old guys came up to me to talk … Muri and I sometimes joked that I had a sign that said Old Guys, Talk To Me on my forehead that only men over sixty could see.  I suppose I looked like a nice guy and I was always polite on the outside … but I had an Inner Curmudgeon in training that was screaming, Take it somewhere else, Gramps!  Back then, my Inner Curmudgeon sounded a lot like my Dad.

There’s been an older Dog Guy in the park lately.  Most days he shows up just about the same time I do with his shaggy-haired mini-dog.   I’ve never seen him pet his dog, talk to his dog or even acknowledge his dog’s existence with anything more than a tug on the leash.   Poor Woofie follows along resignedly with his head down … he knows he’s just bait.   Conversation bait.  The unsuspecting walker who says, Oh, what a cute dog, finds herself with a talkative companion for the duration of her walk.  I’ve noticed that people, burned once, hurry by quickly and quietly, maybe with a nod to be polite.    In my forties, I regarded Harry the Pool Guy as a pest.   At sixty-seven, I feel for the Dog Guy.  In my head, his wife passed away a few years ago, and like many men, he has few friends of his own.  He’s desperate for female companionship but even to septuagenarian women, desperation isn’t pretty.  Through Older Eyes, I realize that I avoided guys like Harry because somewhere deep down, I didn’t want to face the fact that I could be one someday.  What a difference twenty years makes.

When I was coaching soccer, one of my players had a friendly, upbeat grandfather named Andy who came to every game … he became the unofficial team grandfather.   One Saturday, though, he was in a foul mood, a mood that I now understand was brought on by Feeling Older.   He cornered me and Wayne, one of the other dads, at halftime and regaled us with the aches and pains and trials and tribulations of being old.  After about ten minutes, Wayne had had enough.  He put his hand on Andy’s shoulder, looked him straight in the eye and said, What’s the matter, Andy?  Dry dreams and wet farts?  I almost wet my pants laughing but Andy just walked away without a word.  These days, I understand.

When we’re in our arrogant forties, seventy seems so far in the future that we can be cavalier about the darker side of aging.   It’s a subject to be laughed about or avoided.  Then, if we’re lucky, we’re there.   Looking back, I’m glad I was polite to all those old guys who saw the sign on my forehead, that I didn’t blow them off or call them Gramps.   I wish I hadn’t laughed at Andy.   I wish I’d been just a bit more compassionate.   Because when it comes to aging, what you see is what you get.  And karma’s a bitch.

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8 Comments on “The Dog Guy”

  1. I think another old adage “The truth hurts” fits. Unfortunately, sometimes it does hurt in the form of those yucky aches and pains around the joints, in the back, behind -you name it. Thankfully, thus far, moving around a little does often help those areas limber up and become easier to deal with. My mind often tells me things that I should do and insists too that I CAN do those things and I go off on a tangent thinking my mind is right. Usually doesn’t take too long before I realize my mind has been playing tricks on my body again!

    Oh, and in response to your one-upping me in the snake story dept., no offense to Muri but I did have to laugh at her predicament and I’m sure my son’s girlfriend would do the same as she’s laughing about what happened to her. Doesn’t mean any of us are any braver though about the snaky aspect cause she, my daughters and I are all still terrified of the danged things!

    Well, got the grandson all dressed now, ready for the school van to come and pick him up, take him to his pre-school classes for the day and then, it’s back to pretending I can grow a garden in my back yard after which, I will walk the dog. No potential here of using that as a conversational tool though and most definitely not a snowball’s chance in Hell of using him to meet anyone in my age range of the opposite sex either. The path -or road -Sammy and I travel generally gives us complete access with no one intruding on our space at all other than occasional four-wheelers but they come out in droves mainly on the weekends.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Jeni, your so-called tangents are one of the reasons I love your comments. It’s like a surprise vacation … I never know where I’m going or will end up.

      No, Muri is still not amused by the snake story.

  2. Cheryl P. Says:

    I am starting to worry, Bud that those of us that read each others blogs are syncing thoughts in some way. I am working on a post about this very subject. I love your take on it. I have always loved talking to older people..really..even when I was little. Now that I am coming within spitting distance of being old myself, I am becoming more appreciative of those that aren’t dismissive or unkind to people because they deem them a pain in the keister (that assumption based on their age)
    I am sad that someone would make that remark, even if it was said on their crabbiest, most irritating day. Living in a culture that doesn’t respect “getting older” is also a bitch.

    • oldereyes Says:

      One of the most interesting things about developing a blogging community is how we influence each other’s posts … apparently even by syncing thoughts. I love it,

  3. marjulo Says:

    I have to agree with Cheryl about growing older. A strange twist on things, tho–when I was in my late thirties and into my forties, I used to envy older folks, believing then that they had all the answers! My parents lived in a retirement apartment and everything seemed cozy and settled. It wasn’t until they became sick or enfeebled that I understood that I didn’t get it. On another note, when I was whistled at LONG, LONG ago, I complained to my maternal grandmother about it. She told me that she was now invisible. Now that I am invisible, I have discovered that an “invisibility cloak” isn’t what I really wanted. Just my two cents worth…

    • oldereyes Says:

      We old folks DO have all the answers, can’t you tell from my blog? And … you aren’t invisible … I see the best of you in your blog. Don’t know how to whistle a comment, though.

  4. sharon Says:

    Good one! I duck the old busy bodies who want to stop and quiz me a bout my life and my dogs. I know it’s kind of rude but I have to get to work, I can’t stand around all day and gab. I do like to live by one of the neighborhoods elderly, they pay attention to what is going on at my house when my dogs may lick an intruder to death.

  5. territerri Says:

    This was a good dose of perspective that I hadn’t even realized I needed. Not that I would ever be outwardly rude to anyone, but I have begun to let someone close to me start to get on my nerves, and the more I accept that feeling, the easier it is for him to get on my nerves. I guess I needed a reminder that getting older is not necessarily fun and the behavior that might accompany it isn’t always just bad behavior, but maybe motivated by a sense of losing control of one’s life. Hopefully I will be just a bit more patient from now on.

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