A lesson in the finer points of Geezerhood

For what it's worth

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2000

I'm not sure just when Geezerhood begins. Most likely it is a personal thing, settling upon some earlier than others. My current studies indicate the onset occurs, in most cases, around age 60.

I am convinced living most of your adult life in Alaska leads to, at the very least, early symptoms of the malady. It is not an unpleasant passage. Many of my friends agree it is a most pleasant experience, like settling into a comfortable old chair. Geezerhood seems confined to males.

Not all males become geezers, some simply become elderly gentlemen; quiet, well mannered and sweet souls, who still wear dress shirts weekdays, shave every morning and wouldn't think of wearing a sweater with a gravy stain. I respect these gender mates and admire them, to a certain degree. They are more disciplined and refined than the rest of us.

Or they have a full-time ``manager'' devoted, some might say driven, to seeing they toe the line; clean shirts, daily shaves, matching socks and, if they have it, hair neatly combed. Genuine Geezers know what I mean when I reference (nudge, nudge) a ``full-time manager.''

It's important to make a distinction between the dictionary definition of the word geezer and the way I prefer to define a geezer. Websters New Abridged describes a geezer as an ``eccentric old man.'' I find use of the word ``eccentric'' prejudicial, a clear indication the individual responsible for compiling the entry is most likely a young person. Geezers are not eccentric.

Geezers have attained the age and state of mind whereby they understand that much of what they used to think was important really isn't. A lot of what they endured for the first 60 years of life was nonsensical, conformist behavior, counter to the natural instincts of males.

In other words, they no longer give a damn about a lot of things they used to think mattered. They also understand a lot more than they used to and at the same time are puzzled by things they thought they understood. That is not eccentricity. That is a manifestation of a clear mind; a scraped bare desk; a clean sheet of paper; a new beginning. It can be a marvelous and exciting time. But it can also be a difficult transition.

The onset of Geezerhood can be a time of fear and confusion for the unprepared and unsuspecting. The fear results, in a great part, because of the presumption that Geezerhood is what the pointy-heads who write dictionaries say it is.

Thus, males approaching or just past the age of 60 are not prepared for subtle changes in their lives. They are confused by new-found urges and terrified they may be evolving into something like Gabby Hayes, Walter Brennan, Sen. Bill Ray or the Malcontent. Come to think of it, the latter pair would be more like Codgers. Codgers are advanced Geezers.

There are no federal programs, no seminars and no support groups available to ease men into Geezerhood - you just wake up one morning and there it is. Or there you are. Or it can come up on you gradually.

For instance, it took me a while to recognize that my deepest secrets are safe with my best friends because they can't remember most of them either. The other day I noticed my address book is filling with names that begin with Dr. instead of Mr. or Mrs.

Then one day you realize your memory has moved to your butt; you stand up to get something, can't remember what it was, sit back down and instantly remember what it was you got up for.

Every week or so I get together with some friends at a place called the Baroque Bean. Once you get over the kid with red and green hair, the artwork that makes no sense at all and the pretentious menu, it's a pleasant place to enjoy excellent coffee.

One member refers to our loose association as ``The Rejects.'' He reasons it is made up of guys who retired early or were forced out of gainful employment in their mid- to late 50s and are just now passing 60. My new pals were real movers and shakers in their time but have reached that pleasant plateau where most pretense has been cast aside; most of us no longer think we're such hot stuff. The early symptoms of Geezerhood are becoming more apparent though.

Six of us pushed our second-hand store chairs back from the table the other day and reached for our jackets after spending a pleasant hour gossiping about politics and the mild weather.

``I'll get the check,'' Tom announced. ``I think one of you guys got it the other day.'' We all mumbled protests, reaching for our wallets. I had forgotten mine.

``Yeah, Tim got it last week,'' said Matt. Tim was not at last week's gathering.

``No,'' I said, ``you paid it last week Matt.''

``I couldn't have,'' he replied, ``wasn't I out of town last week?''

As we stood on the sidewalk in front of the Baroque Bean, the kid with the green and red hair came out.

``Did you guys leave these,'' he asked. He was holding two pairs of reading glasses, a pair of gloves and a scarf. We each selected our stuff and walked away grumbling.

Warren W. Wiley, a former Juneau resident, political observer and radio personality, now lives in Montana. He can be reached by e-mail at wwiley@mcn.net.

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