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Jack Zaleski, Published August 08 2010

Zaleski: Old-age signals? Omdahl missed a few

A couple of weeks ago North Dakota’s dean of political and cultural commentary, Lloyd Omdahl, used his column to warn about seven signs of old age. He’s much older than I, so he knows of what he speaks. But he missed a few. As an ageless baby boomer who reluctantly acknowledges my sixth decade, here’s what I’m seeing:

When I open my high school yearbook, I sometimes really believe that hot girl I dated still looks that way.

Regarding that Class of ’64 yearbook, when I’m not doing the rose-colored glasses bit, I count the dead. A little check mark near the photo. More every time I open it up. Depressing.

Not long ago when I’d look in the mirror, I’d see Dad or an uncle grinning back at me. Now I see my grandfather, the Polish immigrant factory worker, not grinning.

Still staring into the mirror, my hair used to bleach light in the summer sun. It doesn’t anymore because there’s too much gray in it. Well, graying or not, I have most of it, which is more than my father and grandfather had.

The other day in a moment of mortifying weakness, I was enthralled by a Pat Boone TV infomercial for an easy-access, high-sided, won’t-break-your-hip bathtub for creaky old people. Gee, I thought, what a good idea. “For just four easy payments …” Then I snapped out of it. Whew! Biggest shock? That Pat Boone is still alive. He looks like he needs that tub.

Once fashionably tolerant of the fashion foibles and trash talk of young people, I no longer am. I have had it with pimple-faced, baggy-pants teenage boys who use foul language in public places. Giggling, cell phone-obsessed sub-teen girls are worse – painted up and dressed so much like low-rent hookers their parents qualify as pimps. (I almost said “floozies.” How’s that for oldster talk?)

My cast-iron stomach is beginning to act like used tinfoil. Having grown up in a house where the food alternated between Italian and Polish, my gut was inured to abuse. No more. The other night I dug into a jar of pickled pigs’ feet, which have always been a favorite. The tinfoil crinkled, giving rise to ominous gurgles and churn. Couldn’t finish the jar, and that was a first.

My triplet granddaughters and I were sitting on the back deck, big trees all around. We were naming trees and I said the tallest oaks are more than 100 years old.

“Are you older than the trees?” asked one of the 4-year-olds. “Well, almost,” I said to their wide and wondering eyes. “But when I’m with you (like the old song says) ‘younger than springtime am I’…” Their smiles lit up the leafy shade. Now that’s worth all the years required to attain grandfather status.


Contact Forum Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at 701-241-5521.