Do men become comic figures as they grow older?
My wife arranges the collar of my shirt so that I will not “look schlumpy”. She tugs at it to separate it from the new coat I have pulled on, a Christmas present. She tells me to walk outside to see if it is warm enough. On the walkway in the hard winter light, I catch a glimpse of myself in my mind’s eye. I had not had a haircut in 2 and ½ months and had not shaved in days; my head threw up hair like clumped wool on an ancient goat. My white beard bristled. All I needed was a lawn chair, a bottle of bad whiskey in a brown paper bag and a half-wit smile. I could sit on the corner and wave at all the passing cars and yahoo at a few of them with a friendly salute from my bottle.
In the new year to come, Lord keep me from all forms of “schlump” — from stained shirts, from mismatched clothes, from dull-eyed sulks, from pettiness, from venom, from timeworn grievances, from repeating myself, from spending my talk with others on aches and old times. Let me instead clinch to my daily heart all opportunities to be curious, to be sharp, to fight age with deeds, to run from nostalgia and not to sit too long in one place. Let me grow unreasonable in my kindnesses. Grant me work. Let me see clearly. Let me repent my stupidities quickly. Grant that I might grow a wee bit wise, hmm? Maybe?
In the last two weeks I have been reminded of how quickly the world can jolt us –a beautiful new grandniece has entered our family, at the movies I chanced into a happy conversation with someone I had not seen in years, and on a cold night and a snowy road another white haired man and I took care of a woman who had suffered a stroke and who lay wild eyed and struggling to understand what had happened to her. All three unite for me in this, a finish to my prayer. Grant that the poor woman on the road recover all her powers. Allow my newest niece, Finley, to grow strong and to blossom. Let me greet more lost friends. Grant me more time to become a better man. Keep me sharp.