If I had been marked with a “best if used by” date, I would have been well past it and trashed 30 years ago. Lately I’ve felt like that cucumber in the fridge drawer that you forgot about two months ago and stuck your finger through yesterday while reaching for a carrot. Past my prime is an understatement, yet daily I see or am told about someone a couple of decades older than I who is doing just fine, staying busy, still speaking in complete sentences and hasn’t resorted to disposable undergarments. These folks set a really high bar, and regardless of whether I like to admit it, life IS a competition. I feel as though I’m behind by at least a couple of touchdowns and a field goal and I’d cheat if I knew what inning we were in.
So, to stay in the game, I do the basics: exercise daily, eat vegetables when I get tired of being reminded, and get regular checkups and all the trendy inoculations by a long list of health care professionals. I am early to bed and way too early to rise. I go to church regularly, help others when I can, put my shopping cart in the corral when I’m through with it, and hardly ever have a Payday bar and a Moxie for lunch.
None of that prevents me from displaying the unmistakable signs of old age, such as tipping over just putting on my underwear. There are other public signs as well, like those purple “old man” marks that show up without explanation on my hands and arms, or linguistic clues that make younger folks look at me with a cocked head like a dog at the sound of an ambulance.
That one has become a ready source of irritation for me.
I know that language evolves over time and words change meanings, which explains the
existence of a university course of study called “linguistic anthropology.” Even though my generation reduced some words to meaningless exclamations, I am nonetheless unhappy with the ruination of the word “awesome” and the tendency to turn language into a mind-reading exercise. Yes, you should say what you mean and mean what you say. A ridiculous statement followed by, “Well, you know what I mean,” is neither more clear nor more accurate. My old-aged self recoils at the casual dismissal of the rules of speech that I was taught.
Barely two-thirds of a century ago.
But still, I want “literally” back. And “to die for” is too absurd to have survived as long as it has. Stop it. For the real meaning of that one, go visit Arlington National Cemetery. Say hello to my grandfather while you’re there.
I may be a “boomer,” but it’s not necessary to point that out. A glance in my direction will show you all you need to know about that. Talking to me will provide unmistakable evidence that I have, indeed, reached curmudgeon status. Some have said I went flying by that one more than a few decades ago, but as one of my favorite sailor pals said: “I yam what I yam.”
Butch Lawson is an observer of life. He lives on Bailey Island.