Wednesday, May 25, 2011


May 25, 2011

There I am in my pajamas thinking is this it? Is this what old age is all about? Passing the entire day wandering aimlessly about the house in a dressing gown. How about spending the entire rest of your life in that bathrobe. Just before you wind up in a wicker bath chair with ten-inch droolsicles dangling from the corner of your mouth.
Ageing stinks. But, as Maurice Chevalier famously noted, it isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.
Besse Cooper, right here in Monroe will be 115 this summer, God willing. She was the oldest person on earth until just this spring, when Maria Gomez Valentim popped up in Brazil and pipped her by 48 days...
Old. Young. Whatever. As seminal bluesman Lightnin’ Slim sang: “We all bound for the graveyard sure as I was born.”
But it’s not just about adding years; how about those changing looks. My daughter alluded to baggy eyes and a vacant stare. I told her despite all that she still looked acceptable for her age. Very funny, she said: she meant me. Well yes it’s called Morning Face isn’t it and thank you so very much for pointing it out and at my age Morning Face is a condition that lasts all day doesn’t it and you’ll find out for yourself soon enough you cheeky monkey.
But what the Dickens is going on with this here puss? It’s altered again, this time even more drastically than before. Who is that ridiculous old duffer with the flabby cheeks and the puffy eyes and the puffy... everything.
My features seem to have widened, pushing the sides out, giving me this hamster-esque look that I never had in my life. The beginnings of awful sagging 19th Century jowls as seen on those old Charles Dickens characters where they’d sprout and cultivate great fuzzy mutton chop sideburns. Mr Pumblechook springs to mind.
My dad didn’t even look like this and he was 86. So where did these pumblecheeks come from?
It’s not just the jowly look, it’s the countenance in general. Some people say your body changes every seven years: this late in life the change seems like every time I turn around, and it’s getting worse. The sticking-out spiky eyebrows, punk-style. Those hoary “old man” flapjack ears, twice as thick now and covering more of the head. Teeth so gappy they look like a mouthful of Stonehenge...
All that is on its way. The face already morphing into a cartoon version of its former self: pretty soon they’ll be accusing me of gurning when that’s the way I look normally.
Never did I dream I’d be Dorian Gray in reverse, but it’s happened. I’m getting old while my picture in the attic stays the same. Oscar Wilde must’ve had it all wrong.
No more the feisty, fiery whippersnapper who challenged the world and caused so much trouble Old age now is sex, drugs and muzak. Mostly muzak... OK, I confess, there’s no sex. She bought a see-through nightie but my eyesight wasn’t up to it. She whispered something in my ear and I just swatted it away. The drugs are for actual ailments and basically it’s all elevator music. Nothing too excitable and not a good finale for an old rock ‘n’ roll rebel whom time overtook.
So what to do? In order to appear younger I could try hanging out with the Rolling Stones, maybe Keith Richards, who’s my junior by a year but looks like my grandfather. Without the pumblecheeks.
I could go tooling around town in an outrageously garish yellow convertible, expecting the swooning ladyfolk to drop their posies in admiration... Nah. My ancient neighbor did that and it was pathetic. I remember those same sad, geriatric geezers from my youth when the only wheels I could afford was a clapped-out Lambretta scooter on which girls refused to ride because it was too oily.
But it’s not going to be a cap and nightgown now, carrying a candlestick like old Scrooge. Maybe play out my last lazy days at the country club, sit around and wait there until it’s time to take the big dirt nap. But why? Is that what a guy’s life cycle is: birth, work, golf, death.
Acquiring a bit of age does have its compensations, though. For one, you can leer lasciviously at the pretty young fillies with impunity because with your curiously contorted old features they think you’re probably just having a heart attack.
And I do believe that by law you’re actually required to be grumpy. I am very law-abiding.
OK, I’ve overstated the case; I’m not quite as bad as all that. I do look younger than my years. Always Have. Babyface Wehner. Well into my twenties, I’d continue to be asked by landlords of the local pubs for proof that I was over 18, the drinking age in Britain. This caused my school friends great amusement, but I would counter with: You wait till we’re in our sixties!
Now we all are and they all look like Rolling Stones.
Bob Dylan is 70. He said recently that he felt he was halfway through his life. That resonates with a lot of seniors these days. Somehow, despite the creaky bones, croaky voices, the trick backs and forgetfulness, we’re all too young to be this old. The Germans have a saying: You’re as old as you feel yourself. I feel I could be in my 40s, but every time I say my real age I think I’m lying.
And I so wish I were.


© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.