Getting Older, Caring Less

There are three ironclad rules about getting older:

  1. Make no long-term investments.
    This means not making any kind of investment where you’re unlikely to live to see the outcome.
  2. Never trust a fart.
    I don’t think I have to explain this one.
  3. Never waste an erection.
    Ditto. Believe me, when you get up there in age, these physiological miracles are not as common as they were in your twenties.

Let’s go back to #1 for a moment. Perhaps it’s because the past few years have been so difficult for me, nursing an ailing wife and then having to deal with her death, one realizes that most stuff is irrelevant by comparison, on a personal basis of course.

It has worried me that things that would in the past have brought from me a seething rant full of invective, rage and possibly even threats, now occasion from me a wry smile, a scowl or a muttered curse. (This would include almost every idiocy / lunacy perpetrated by Our Beloved Government — may the fleas of a thousand camels infest their nether regions.)

Why is it that I don’t really care much about anything, most especially when it doesn’t affect me personally, or if it does, it’ll likely happen after I’m dead? (There is a tangential discussion to be had on this topic, by the way, which would argue that if  my attitude is common among senior citizens, then old farts like me should never be allowed to formulate any kind of long-term government policy or change any social institutions. But we’ll do that some other time.)

When we lived in the Chicago ‘burbs (Prospect Heights, for those who know the area), our little municipality was one of the very few which did not use “city” water, but relied on wells. (This despite Lake Michigan being but a few miles from our front door — inexplicable.) Property taxes were of course lower, but that was offset by occasional water shortages, which totally sucked. Anyway, a referendum was held on whether the Heights should go to city water — it would require a bond to finance bringing water lines to the streets, but residents could have the choice of paying for the water line from the street to the house, or just sticking with well water. The bond would require a one-time per-household fee of a few hundred dollars — payable by an addition to the property tax bill (which, as  I mentioned earlier, was very low). We were overjoyed, and couldn’t wait for the measure to pass. It failed. It failed because about 50% of the residents were elderly and didn’t care that the future residents would have a better quality of life — because they themselves wouldn’t be around to see it, and thus weren’t interested in spending even the few dollars necessary. So we were stuck with tepid, unreliable well water, which situation we resolved by moving to the City of Chicago when our lease ended, and living not a few miles, but a few yards from Lake Michigan. We never stopped hating those elderly residents of Prospect Heights, though — even though they were obeying Rule #1.

I don’t want to be one of those selfish old bastards; but at the same time, I find myself getting the same kind of perspective. My conscience will generally make me do the right thing, I hope — I would vote in favor for that water bond in a heartbeat, for example — but from what I can tell, that’s not the way to bet when it comes to other people, and most especially older politicians whom one would hope have the same social conscience as I, but who clearly don’t.

Have I gone soft? (This is not a reference to Rule #3, by the way; at least, I hope not.) I’ve noticed that events that would normally make me livid with rage now simply irritate me; and paradoxically, things I would have shrugged off in the past now make me want to reach for the 1911.

Maybe it’s because of the circumstances I find myself in now, maybe it’s an effect of age, or maybe it’s some of both. I need to think about it some more, and figure it out.

Your opinions on this topic will be welcome. This is important stuff to me.

17 comments

  1. Let’s see. In inverse order, #3 is a definite yes, though time and wasting have reduced the issue to almost moot. #2 was always true; the problem is that with age you no longer have that spidey-sense of your youth that warns you which ones need to be eked out just in case. And last, but definitely not least, #1 applies to almost every action, though certain investments may be made in spite of the implied lack of return to oneself. None of this means you need not become emotionally invested in an issue — or be afraid to fart in public, for that matter.

    I hope you were not expecting any cogency in the replies — consider the empathetic demographic that you are addressing!

  2. Why is it that I don’t really care much about anything, most especially when it doesn’t affect me personally, or if it does, it’ll likely happen after I’m dead?

    I can understand the attitude if the things about which you don’t care won’t affect either you or your children. Having no children myself (and no realistic prospect of ever fulfilling my evolutionary function in that regard, alas), I find that my despair regarding the future of civilization on this planet is gradually morphing into cynical amusement. Hopefully things will hold together long enough that the apparently inevitable collapse will post-date my demise, and with no bloodline to care about, my concern for the rest of the species doesn’t rouse my passions.

    I do pity the young though. This is already an ugly century, and the Jihad is still building steam. A supine West faced with the barbarian hordes without and their Critical Theory enablers within is not a recipe for freedom or prosperity.

  3. Now that I am in my 70’s I think rule number one is never pass up a chance to pee.

    You are so right about what to worry about as you age that will affect you directly and those things your children and grandchildren will need to consider. When I went back to work for the medical insurance eight years ago, I was the oldest person in a building with 130 people mostly in their 20’s and 30’s and I loved messing with them when they were ranting about stuff because I would tell them that when they got be my age I wouldn’t give a shit because I would be dead. We had decent pay, excellent benefits, flexible hours and annoying management and those snowflakes would bitch an moan while I was thinking how great it was not to be owning my own business anymore and worrying about making payroll and paying all of the taxes. I enjoyed showing up for work, doing my job which was not hard and being able to tease and cutup with folks because being old I was kind of a protected minority person working with people from all over the world.

    For some reason they called me ‘Grand Torino’ since I would tease the Asians about eating dogs and other weird stuff and the French about eating frogs and talking behind my tiny little French manger’s back saying Ribbitt Ribbitt when she was telling us stuff in her strong French accent that might have made sense if we knew what she was saying. And then asking my hispanic buddy for tips on having a better lawn, he was Panamanian descent and would tell me he didn’t know about lawns and I would tell him he looked like a Mexican and every one knows Mexicans are lawn experts. Our part of the company was based in Germany and I would tease the Germans about getting drunk and invading Poland and when they came down with the semi-annual, new goofy procedures I would remark that it made total sense that they lost WWII. I am so glad that I lived in a time, now passing, when we could have fun working together and it was pointed out several time to me that the only reason I could get away with my smart ass stuff was because I was old and kind of funny and I enjoyed being teased about my bald head and goofy Texas accent.

    Being old does have its advantages, when I argue about a bill on the phone I first ask if they are allowed to hang up on me and the usual reply is no, of course not. Then I tell them I am an old retired man with a fresh cup of coffee and nothing to do the rest of the day so we are going to visit as long as it takes for them to understand my point of view. I also explain to the phone operator that my dissatisfaction is not personal and how many kids do you have and what ages are they and how are they doing in school. Since call centers are graded by the amount of time it takes for each call it doesn’t take long to find out how badly they want to accommodate me and help me with my desired resolution of the problem. Being an grumpy old man can be a lot of fun if one approaches it with the right smart ass attitude.

    Kim, once more I am so sorry about your losing Connie, there are never the right words to say that. I also look forward to your postings each day, you are indeed one of the good ‘Old Guys’ with pithy observations.

  4. I think as you get older you’re more careful about choosing a hill to die on, because you’ve come to realize that death is both inevitable and sooner than it once was. It’s a matter of perspective. Twenty-somethings have the luxury of thinking the world is coming to an end because Hillary lost an election, fifty-somethings (and older) have been thru a few up-and-down cycles and realize that the world will continue just fine without our tantrums.

    When people first meet me, they think I’m a grouchy, cantankerous, anti-social, misanthropic old bastard. Once they get to know me they realize they were mistaken though, my parents were married.

  5. I would imagine the biggest difference is that it’s easier to convince yourself not to fight as you get older. What was once worth doing battle no longer is– the line where the gloves come off is pushed back. For myself, I can’t really say I care less about the things that matter while pushing 40 than I did while 25, I’m just much better at strategy. No point getting bloody if you can just drop a large rock on the problem from above.

  6. I wish I was half a witty as some of you guys as I would have a lot more fun in life I am sure.

    Keep pushing the ball up hill as getting smashed by it does not seem to be a good idea.

  7. So…I’m gonna go out on a limb here Kim.

    You’re not terribly interested in external happenings because you’re depressed, and probably will be for about a year.

    What set of circumstances do you think has the greater impact on your outlook Right Now?
    The recent death of your wife which was the culmination of a lengthy illness, and all the emotional and physical muck that went with that, or your moderately advancing age?

    I’m sure you’ll be back to your usual ranty, hippy crushing self…in due course, and not before.

  8. Ah, you young whippersnappers! 😀 Here I am at 82 and still laughing a lot.

    I’d vote for a rational bond issue “for the good of the community”, were it something like the potable water issue. Short-term benefit for me, long-term for the young’uns.

    I’ve always compartmentalized: Some things can be directly affected, right now, so deal with them. Some things will become problems later, so stay awake and aware. Some things are beyond any effort of mine, so don’t get excited about them; practice self-defense as necessary.

    “I’m not a cynic; I’m just observant.” Helps to be a smart-ass with a grin.

    In the immortal words of my troubadoring late friend, Allen Damron, “Getting bigger is mandatory. Becoming an adult is voluntary.” I like to think that I’ve pushed adolescence beyond all previous limits.

  9. I think you’re reorienting. Much of your energy in recent years was directed to your wife. Now that she’s gone, you’re in the position of redefining yourself and your life. You’re still deciding how you’ll choose to invest your resources – your intellect, your passion, your physical energy.

    You were a married man, in your own home. Now you’re a single man, technically free as a bird. How old were you the last time this was true? You don’t fit any kind of stereotype (I doubt you ever did), but now you have fewer years ahead of you than you have behind you. Certainly not ready to crawl into an old folks home any time soon, but not in your prime any longer. These considerations impact the way you prioritize.

    Summary – how you think and feel right now is transitory. Grieving is a kind of insanity, and in the midst of insanity, you were forced to make decisions. You’ve made the ones you had to – take your time with the rest.

  10. At 74 I am greatly concerned for the quality of life of the grandkids as the downfall of the republic is fast approaching.
    That said, my own position is fuckit. I don’t have enough time left to worry about shit I can’t control.
    I too lost my bride of 30 years and my new bride of 18 years is an invalid for the last seven.
    Like the man said above, “I think rule number one is never pass up a chance to pee.”
    Taking care of her, range time, time at the reloading bench, and mentoring new shooters are about all this old fart can handle.
    Politics, threat of WW3, financial melt down, ….fuckit.

  11. Yup! Never pass up a chance to pee. Wish I had loaded my husband into the truck and taken him to say goodbye to his family & friends. The money would have been better spent driving all over the West and parts of Canada. It’s been 9 years and I still want to kick myself for not listening to myself. Dam he would have loved it.

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