What a way to go

king-tut-coffinHere’s one question that always comes up at some point in everyone’s life – your death. Actually, your after-death.

So, how do you want to go … after you’re gone? You know, post-croak. Past your “best-if-used-before” date. Nod off for The Big Sleep. Cash out in the final checkout line. Exit, stage life.

“I don’t want to be buried,” my wife told me a while back when the subject came up. “I don’t want to be in the ground. That’s too creepy and gross.”

“Me neither,” said I.

“So you want to be cremated too?”

“Nope. I want to be stuffed.”

“Stuffed? Like a raccoon or a bear?”

“Ayup. Have me stuffed standing up, with a big friendly smile on my face.”

“Anything else?”

“Just a couple more wishes. Plant me standing up in the front yard, by the side of the road with one arm up in the air. Maybe with a little motor in it so it waves it back and forth to the cars going by the house. In fact, maybe pull out the mailbox and put me there. You could attach the box to me and then put my other arm to good use.”

“I’m afraid to ask, but I must – for what?”

“Arm up – and the mailman knows there’s outgoing mail in the box. Think of that. I’d not only be decorative, but practical too. Perfect.”

“Really, that’s disgusting.”

“I suppose discussing Christmas lights would be over the top then …”

Now, before you write off my last request as just another goofy thing only my mind is capable of concocting, think again. I’m not the only one out there. And I know this because some pretty odd final requests … have been granted.

And in this corner …
puerto rican boxer wakeIf you haven’t noticed, Christopher Rivera Amaro of Puerto Rico is a boxer. It was his life. Well, it was until tragically he was killed in a shooting in January. A funeral home director handling the burial services for Rivera’s family told the Associated Press they wanted to stress his boxing. So the funeral home suggested posing him in a ring for his wake.
puerto rican boxerLooks like they were happy with the idea. That’s his mother on the left, his wife at right and his son kneeling in front of him.

Riding off into the cemetery …
Man-Buried-Riding-His-Harley-Davidson-MotorcycleBilly Standley loved his 1967 Harley. So much the Mechanicsburg, Ohio, man wasn’t about to leave this physical world without it and he told his family about it. He bought additional grave plots next to his wife and his sons built the special plexiglass coffin so he and his vintage Electra Glide …
Man-Buried-Riding-His-Harley-Davidson-Motorcycle-3… could ride off into the topsoil.

Now, about those Christmas lights …

Be a manly man! … never mind

Manly menLately, I haven’t been feeling as manly as I once did a few eons ago. I’m getting up there in years. Hair’s gone gray, going white in some places. My abs? Somebody took out my six-pack and stuck in a 2-liter bottle. Make that a 3-liter. My abdominals have gone abnormal. My skin’s gone from rippled to wrinkled.

As most humans my age and beyond, I’ve passed up and coming and I fear I’m fast closing in on pretty well gone. I just thank God my mind never advanced much beyond that of a three-year-old. So I can still think it, but doing it? Well, it seems my pop also has aged a bit and expanded as well. To pooped.

But … just in time … along comes medical science. The TV was on in the other room while I was doing something in the kitchen and I heard the commercial. The announcer’s pitch came straight at me like a too-far-inside fastball. Maybe all I really need is … a pharmaceutically-induced boost of testosterone!

It’s called AndroGel 1.62%. Testosterone gel. You put it on under your arms like deodorant and in no time, you not only don’t perspire, you’ve been chemically inspired back to your long-forgotten manliness!
girly-man-arnoldGive me more testosterone or give me death!

With every passing second of the commercial, I saw the light of my life burning brighter and brighter. I could be rejuvenated, returned, rewired! No more going to work in a car – I’ll swing from vine to vine, tree to tree, to get there! It’s not someday my wonder drug will come, it’s already here!

overly-manly-man

Suddenly, the announcer’s voice became quieter, more solemn. I was having trouble hearing him. I walked to the doorway and began to hear the rambling of the possible side effects …

• Do not apply AndroGel 1.62% to any other parts of your body such as your stomach area (abdomen), penis, or scrotum.

• Stop using AndroGel 1.62% and call your healthcare provider right away if you see any signs and symptoms of puberty in a child, or changes in body hair or increased acne in a woman, that may have occurred through accidental exposure to AndroGel 1.62%.

• Do not use AndroGel 1.62% if you have breast cancer or have or might have prostate cancer.

• AndroGel 1.62% is not meant for use in women and must not be used in women who are or may become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. AndroGel 1.62% may harm the unborn or breast-feeding baby. Women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should avoid contact with the area of skin where AndroGel 1.62% has been applied.

• AndroGel 1.62% can cause serious side effects, including:

If you already have enlargement of your prostate gland, your signs and symptoms can get worse while using AndroGel 1.62% (including changes in urination).

Possible increased risk of prostate cancer.

In large doses, AndroGel 1.62% may lower your sperm count

Swelling of your ankles, feet, or body, with or without heart failure. This may cause serious problems for people who have heart, kidney, or liver disease.

Enlarged or painful breasts.

Having problems breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea).

Blood clots in the legs; this can include pain, swelling, or redness of your legs.

• AndroGel 1.62% is flammable until dry. Let AndroGel 1.62% dry before smoking or going near an open flame …

The bright light of my life dimmed … gone in 60 seconds. How can one swing from tree to tree with “enlarged or painful breasts”?

I stopped listening. Walked over to the fridge. Opened the door, reached in and pulled out a couple bottles of Ensure.

Might as well drink my troubles away.

I don’t wanna grow up

young and oldLet’s face it – it sucks to be me. It sucks to be you. It sucks to be most of us.

Because it sucks to grow old.

I’m not talking about the usual reasons. I don’t care that I have gray hair. I don’t care that sometimes when I make up my mind to get up from a chair, my body says, “You must be kidding. Really? Right now?” and doesn’t want to move. I’m not talking about starting to forget things either. What things, I don’t remember.

No, what I’m talking about is as a lot of us get older, an awful lot of us get stupid.

It wasn’t like that when we were young. When we were innocent. When we still saw the world clearly and in a singularly simple, insightful and intelligent way. Bottom line: It is what it is. Keep it simple, stupid old people.

Oh sure, laugh at this kid's answer to this test question. But really ... it does make some deductive sense. You're just too old now to see it.

Oh sure, laugh at this kid’s answer to this test question. But really … it does make perfect deductive sense. You’re just too old to see it.

Oh, we may say some silly things in the early days of our lives. But at that age, most of us don’t do dumb things. We save that until when we get older.

I mean, what good is a detachable steering wheel on your car if you can't detach it? And at speed, of course. Makes perfect adult sense.

I mean, what good is a detachable steering wheel on your car if you can’t detach it? And at speed, of course. Makes perfect adult sense.

No, I do believe we have our best moments, and our best material, when we’re too young to know better. Or too much.

If it's good enough for my lawn, then it's good enough for yours. You know, the kid makes a pretty good case here.

If it’s good enough for my lawn, then it’s good enough for yours. The kid makes a pretty good case here.

But once we turn into adults, it all goes to crap. Not just out there in the yard, but up there between our ears. It starts to build up with age and before you know it you’re not only old, you’re full of it. Crap, that is.

For example, take a good look at this picture. What do you see?

FlintstoneIf you’re young, you see Fred Flintstone, you see the Caveman at his prehistoric best. You see Yabba Dabba Do, Wilma, Barney and Betty. You see funny. And you also see … a cartoon.

But if you’re old, if you’re Kyle Hill, a contributing writer to old, stuffy “Scientific American” magazine, you see something completely different. You look at Fred and his vehicle and your adult, soon-to-be-decrepit mind asks: How does Fred Flintstone stop his car using nothing but his feet?

In his article (yeah he wrote an article and yup, Scientific American published it) Hill estimates Flintstone’s rockmobile weighs 1,980 pounds and can travel at a top speed of 25 mph. Though Fred’s feet may be thickly callused enough to be used as brakes, Hill doesn’t think that’s a realistic assessment. “The worst case is much more likely,” he says. “If Fred pressed and held his feet to the ground, he would most likely lose them.”

Really. How very interesting. A most adult line of thinking.

And damned stupid.

Lord of the Dings

old_farm_truck_in_field I grew up on a farm and though I haven’t lived that way for decades I guess some aspects of the lifestyle never leave you. I’m not talking about raising cattle in my backyard, though there’s been a zoo inside my house for more years than I lived out in the middle of a cornfield.

No, I’m talking about my pickup truck. It’s getting old and there’s talk of trading it in for a new one. I’ve traded in vehicles many times but now that I’m getting as old as an old truck, the idea of giving away the old for something new just doesn’t sit well with me anymore. On a couple of levels, when it comes to my truck.

First, nearly every ding, scratch, dent and crease in that old black behemoth is there because I put it there, doing things that one does with a truck. And a couple more because of what one shouldn’t do with one. You ever see a farmer driving a nice, shiny old truck – he must be raising daffodils. In his living room.

Actually I’m kinda proud of them – my truck and me, well, we made them together. Maybe when it was new and I was younger such vehicular garnishes would have bothered me, but now that it’s old I do believe those dings, dents and other things give it … character.

Like the time I really thought I could squeeze through the slightly-less-than-a-parking-space left between a car and a light pole in a parking lot. I was sure of it – until the right side of the old girl started to lift up as I edged past the big concrete base of the pole and let out an awful scratching screech. I guess not, I realized, but no sense in going back now. Didn’t touch the car or even mark the pole but I found a nice, long, bright yellow-colored gouge creased deep across the lower part of my black passenger and backseat panel doors.

It was pretty near straight. And the doors still opened and closed.

“Look at that,” I said to her. “We got ourselves a racing stripe.”

Do that with a Prius. And be happy about it. I dare you. It’s what separates us farm boys from city folk, I guess. Manure happens – especially to a pickup truck.

And there was the time when I was sitting in another parking lot. Like any other full-size pickup driver does, I was off to the outer edge of the lot, away from most vehicles. I’d also parked so I could just drive away and not back up. Very simple, very easy, very smart. I’d just gotten back from shopping, sitting and idling with no one around me and looking at my sales receipt, when in the corner of my eye I saw movement by my door.

I looked over and down to see the front end of some non-descript Japanese sedan pushing along the side of my front fender, like a runaway shopping cart with an engine. And a driver. The car gently (as much as a car can do) swiped along my front fender and ended up stopped in front of me.

I’d just been hit by a car. In slow motion. And I wasn’t even moving. The driver looked back at me. I was staring at him. And then he started yelling and gave me the finger.

I was stunned. Of course I did what any other normal, red-blooded American raised on a farm would do.

I started laughing. I couldn’t stop. It was so damn ridiculous. I did manage to get out a couple words, though.

“I was just sitting here, you shithead!”

For me, the whole thing was entirely, completely hilarious. For him, apparently it all became very clear. He stopped yelling and took off. And for my wife? Uh, not so funny.

“You didn’t even get his license plate!?!? Why do I ever let you go anywhere by yourself.”

“I couldn’t stop laughing, hon. And it was just the truck – it’s like a white accent stripe along the fender. Didn’t do any real damage, still drives and everything.”

“This is why you should have a gun.”

“Why do I need a gun?”

“You could have shot out his tires!!!”

Obviously, my lovely wife was not raised on a farm.

If she had been, she wouldn’t think I was crazy. About this, or why I really don’t want to trade in my truck. I want to keep it and drive it until it can barely move. But still running enough to let me edge her into the backyard, park her off to the side and just leave her there. That’s how old trucks and other farm machines are laid to rest. That’s where they should go, to slowly rust away. Just like that old GMC you see up at the top there.

Gone, but never forgotten. I’ll even keep the keys in the ignition. Out in the sticks, you do that. You never know when someone, or something, might need it.???????????????????????????????????????

Age before beauty … and everybody else

In yesterday’s post, I grew up some. And while it’s nice to look back now and then, the true way of Man (in the word of the re-elected president) is: Forward.

So, now that my direction is correctly re-directed … starting today I begin making plans for being old. Easy enough. I’m probably already about three-quarters of the way there. Some would say closer. And I even have a goal – something to aim for, to achieve, when I reach old age.

When I’m old, I want to be a grumpy old man – just like my father-in-law. The man who, at times, I believe is the Grumpiest Old Man on Earth.

This isn’t my father-in-law. In fact, my father-in-law probably would growl that this guy is a lousy representation of him. And he’d be right – he wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a scarf.

Yes, someday I want to succeed him. Put on his Crown of Crabbiness and see how it looks on me. Lift up his Scepter of Sarcasm and beat some of my loyal subjects with it. But until I do, my wife and I are deeply immersed in the research necessary to attain this lofty goal. In other words, we spend a lot of time with him. And it’s quite a learning experience.

Lesson 1: Going to the Chinese Buffet.

“Yeah, you got a booth? Near the food. I’m 82 years old and I can’t walk very far.”

As he motors by her, heading straight for the southern-Asian fried chicken wings, the demure hostess has only just opened her mouth. She may have intended to say something like, “Hi, how many?” But it isn’t really necessary. My father-in-law has decided to save this poor woman the breath needed to utter these words. She’s probably been saying them all day and needs a break. And, despite his not-far-walking affliction, he’s even leading the way for her.

My wife and I, bringing up the rear, look at each other. In silence we communicate that this person may not understand this mannerism, may need a translation. We approach.

“Hi, what my father-in-law said was your food looks so appetizing he wants to be seated as close to the buffet as possible, so he might gaze longingly at it while enjoying his dining experience.”

Surprisingly, she smiles and laughs. “Oh, he’s all right, he’s kind of cute. He just can’t wait to eat. We like that!”

My God – it works.

And it works every time. He walks into a store, barks out an order and the clerks fly – first because he scares the crap out of them and second, so they can get what he wants as quickly as they can. And then they thank him for shopping there.

When I’m old and grumpy, I’m even going to have a grumpy dog. Three of them.

Or he’s standing at a customer service desk, where he buys his lottery tickets every day, and growls and howls when the girl behind the counter doesn’t recognize him. That’s probably because she’s never seen him in her entire less-than-two-decade-long life. Or today is her first day on the job.

“Well, the other girl knows who I am.”

Wait a minute – shake head for clarity – does that even make sense? Of course not. But remember, he’s the grumpy old man. It’s OK. Evidence: The next time he comes in and she’s there.

“Oh, I know you, you’re the man I didn’t recognize the last time!” and then happily runs his numbers.

Now, does that make sense?? Of course. Because when you’re old, you can be grumpy and actually thought to be … lovable. What might appear as belligerence is taken as benevolence – as long as you’re old.

Old and grumpy is golden.

When I am old, I still will have friends. And this is how we’ll play.

Lesson 2: You’re old, but never too old.

The three of us are sitting in a restaurant (he likes to eat out), in a booth (where else?), at another buffet. By the way, I believe my father-in-law feels the all-you-can-eat buffet is the greatest American invention since manned flight. And the only reason the Wright Brothers wanted to fly? The nearest all-you-can-eat buffet was three towns away.

My father-in-law is talking about an acquaintance, who happens to be in her 90s. Talking about one of her health issues. A poor health issue.

“I just hope when I get old I don’t have to deal with something like that.”

The statement struck me as about as odd as the buffet item I’d just seen that looked like pot roast but had a sign above it that said: Prime Rib. I stopped chewing.  Probably not the best idea. Since it allowed me to point out that he was 82.

“What? I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been. Never been better. I’m talking about when I get old.”

Finally, something that made sense. And precisely why I want to be just like my father-in-law when I grow up and old. Just as Mark Twain, one of my favorite old and grumpy men, once said:

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”