Monday, September 25, 2006
Musings on Turning 38
My grandfather was a Detroit Tigers fan going as far back as the Ty Cobb era. He saw Babe Ruth hit his 600th home run at Tiger Stadium. The week I was born was the week the Tigers went to the World Series on the strength of Denny McLain's arm. In high school, I remember Grandpa watching the 1984 team over the summer, and sensing that it was something special. (Anyone remember Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell? Lance Parrish? Kirk Gibson?) For the last decade-plus of his life, Grandpa watched his Tigers play terrible, terrible baseball, and it pained him. (Actually, he mostly listened, on WJR. Most summer afternoons, he'd set up a card table and folding chair under a tree by his driveway, put the radio on it, and listen. He had his priorities straight.) This weekend the Tigers clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 1987. They're not my team, but I'll be pulling for them anyway. This one's for you, Grandpa.
Actually, to toast him properly would require either a Faygo or a Vernor's.
Grandpa is one of the reasons I don't fear aging all that much. He had probably the clearest sense of priorities of anyone I've known, which let him enjoy getting older well into his seventies. He didn't deny the physical fact of aging; he just didn't care all that much. (The seemingly dichotomous regimen of daily walks and daily naps pretty much captures it. Get your exercise, and get out of the house, but don't be compulsive about it.) What mattered, mattered, and the rest wasn't worth getting upset about. I admire that.
I also realized this weekend that by the time my Mom was the age I am now, she and Dad had divorced. Every memory I have of the house I grew up in occurred before she was the age I am now.
A wonderful professor I had in college died last month. The obit listed his age. Counting backwards, he was younger when I took his classes than I am now.
It works the other way, too. The Girl is starting to count ('one, two, fee...'), and The Boy is already almost at my shoulders (and I'm over six feet, so that's saying something). TB had his first town soccer league event this weekend. Even though both milestones are totally normal, they still both occasion bursts of parental pride. Parents take pride in the mundane.
Even when the mundane doesn't quite work. The Boy thinks 'pointment' is a word, as in “I need a pointment.” I don't know why it struck me funny, but it did.
Grosse Pointe Blank pretty much captured my attitude toward reunions, but sometimes I think it would be helpful to see how some of my classmates have aged. Last year I had a sort of chance to see how some grad school colleagues had aged when I saw them at my advisor's funeral. It's actually good for the mental health. I'm always disappointed when I see myself in the mirror and don't look 26 anymore; it's good to know that the folks I knew at 26 don't look 26 anymore, either. I don't have a monopoly on getting older.
The upside to working at a college with a very senior faculty is that, even at 38, I still get to be the Young Turk. This is not a small thing. Now I'm only 21 years below the faculty median!
Off to the gym...
In many ways, I still feel the same as I always have, but the stupid world doesn't want to stay the same. So many of the landmarks of my childhood and young adult years are gone without a trace. It's like my past no longer exists, which makes me sad.
Happy Birthday, Dean Dad! And next time I buy some Rock-n-Rye, I will think of your grandpa. :)
Say "tigers" to me and I'll always see Trammell and Whitaker dancing another double play in my mind.
You might not want to toast with Vernors. While it's still kickier than any other gingerale out there, some of us feel that when Pepsi bought the brand, they weakened it. It doesn't make me sneeze when freshly poured anymore
Sundays with the grandparents, listening to Tigers games in the yard as Grandpa would watch the cars roll past and Grandma would be inside making turkey sandwiches on that soft white supermarket-brand bread, those were excellent times. They were such good, kind people. I miss them very much.
As a result of those Sundays, I myself am a rabid Tiger fan, despite not living near Detroit for fifteen years. They will always be my team.
You know, because of those two, I was in my teens before I realized it was even possible to be both old and a jackass. I just assumed that as one got old, one naturally mellowed, gained a larger and long-term perspective on the world, and became a fine, admirable person. Running across senior citizens who were selfish, short-sighted, and cruel confused the hell out of me. It still throws me a little.
Give my regards to the young'uns. We'll be up to see the brood in the next few weeks.
Don't break a hip when yelling at the neighbor kids to get the hell off your lawn.
You want pain? My grampa was a METS fan.
Since I'm still in academia, I've been able to pretend I'm still basically a kid until the last few years, when we started getting intelligent, articulate, interesting people through the lab who have parents my age.
How these kids are managing to be well-educated and six feet tall when they can't possibly be older than eight, I couldn't tell you. I mean, if they're in their early twenties, that means I'm pushing middle age, and of course we all know that's wrong.
At 38, you're wise beyond your years, but not wise enough to realize that you're still young.
Not your fault, Dean Dad. Everyone feels old because we're all the oldest we've ever been--just ask your kids.
Doing the math, I suppose this means that we're rapidly closing in on how old our parents were when we first met. Now that's something I hadn't thought about in awhile.
Another twist on aging comes from continuing to live in student neighborhoods. I feel like I continue to age, but my neighbors are always 18-24. It's an effective way to achieve a surreal feeling.
DD, happy birthday. And to your Grandpa, I'll have a sundae with Sanders' hot fudge sauce, a Topor's pickle on the side, and wash it down with a Stroh's. ;)
Which proves I've got a few years on you. We were out of town, celebrating Joan's birthday in TC, on the 25th, so I'm a little late with this: Happy Birtday, DD. Many happy returns.