You’ve been a Lonely Guy, A Slightly Older Guy and now—assuming the fates have been kind—you’ve become a Considerably Older Guy. Reach round and pat yourself on the back—if you can manage—and congratulate yourself for having come this far along the highway, and not been dumped by the wayside like an old bag of laundry.
How do I know that I’ve become a Considerably Older Guy?
You see an old-timer with a cane, stooped over in the Baby Food section of the supermarket. He selects a can of strained green beans. You say to yourself: “At least I’m not him.”
(panicked) “I am him?
I’m afraid so. You simply haven’t come to grips with your new situation.
Is it possible that this new phase is just a dream? That I’m going to bounce out of bed one morning and return to being a robust, hell-for-leather, go-anywhere kind of fellow?
No, it’s not possible.
I see. (reflects) Chances are I never was that type of fellow anyway. But all those lovely years. Those glittering years…
They speed by, don’t they?
I don’t feel all that different. There’s the knee replacement, of course. But the cataracts don’t count.
One thing’s for sure, I can think clearly. During my hospital stay, a fellow in the next bed kept muttering: “As long as I’ve got my marbles.”
You feel that you’ve got your marbles?
Absolutely. There are two or three names I can’t remember…an Italian actor is one…I’ve written his name down. (takes out wallet, looks at slip of paper)…Alberto Sordi.
Do you need to remember his name?
Not really. He does come up in discussions of Italian Cinema in the Sixties. But there aren’t too many of those.
I should imagine. But apart from the knee, the Italian actor, you feel that you’re pretty much the same fellow.
Yes…I’m told that I’ve had several “silent” heart attacks. As long as they remain silent, I’d just as soon not know about them. (thinks) The doctor did mumble something about a pacemaker. I know what he’s thinking. He has one and he wants me to have one, too.
To show solidarity.
Something along those lines…
You might want to reconsider that pacemaker suggestion—at some point.
What point is that? I MAY BE GONE BY NEXT THURSDAY? IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE SAYING? I’M ABOUT TO BITE THE DUST?
Now, calm down. Just take it day by day….
Sure. (losing it again) AND IN A COUPLE OF DAYS I COULD BE TOAST …..
Now look. This won’t work if you’re going to fall apart like that.
All right, let me get a grip on myself. (takes deep breath) All right, I’m fine now….
You were saying you’re in reasonably good condition.
For a Considerably Older Guy? Yes. (thinks) I do use a cane. But for the most part, I use the cane to give off a certain louche persona…
One doesn’t hear that phrase too often…
I thought I’d just throw it in.
What kind of business did you say you were in?
Indie films. Retired. But I still consult.
And that louche persona of yours…..Is it useful in indie films?
It’s essential. It goes to the very heart of the indie world.
Do you have a project now?
A short film. A sort of mini-indie. Deals with mortality. Amusingly titled “Death—and Why It Still Matters.” Our fear–the fear of the money people– is that audiences won’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Wouldn’t it be better if they did know?
Then it wouldn’t be an indie film.
Strange? Try getting financing for it. In any case, maybe I’ve gotten so caught up in being a Considerably Older Guy that I’ve neglected my latest venture. I suppose I’d better get back to it.
It won’t hurt to step on the gas. Now about that cane.
Of course. My ambition is to get around without it, but it is helpful in hailing cabs. I have to stoop over so drivers don’t think I’m faking a disability…Actually, I do have a bit of a stoop.
So you don’t have to fake anything…
No. (bitter) They know a crip when they see one…
It’s my amusing way of making light of this whole business….
The business of being a Considerably Older Guy?
And you’re suggesting that it’s not that amusing…The cane…Apart from hailing cabs it does have other uses …Just the other day, I spotted an attractive woman. To get her attention, I twirled it around and broke into a little something from Chorus Line.
How did it work out?
Not well. She didn’t care for the show. Saw it with a replacement cast. Nothing beats the original…I don’t know if this is significant, but I’ve begun to think of my cane as a friend.
You could do worse.
I’ll tap it in the morning and say “How are you, old friend.”
You don’t want to go too far in that direction. As a Considerably Older Guy you’re going to need actual friends.
I see what you’re saying. A cane is just a cane. It’s not someone you’ve known since grade school.
Now look here, what you’re indicating in all of this is that I’ve lost a step.
Would that it were only one step. And let’s not forget the two inches in height.
Well, I was always referred to as The Big Guy.
Say goodbye to that, old chum.
Now I’m The Little Guy?
The Little Old Guy.
(despairing ) At the rate I’m going, I could end up a midget.
It’s been heard of.
But I am young in spirit, right?
There must be some mistake. I’m only eighty.
But eighty is the new sixty, isn’t that right?
If you’d care to think of it that way.
(resigned) I don’t. (bravely) Eighty is eighty and might as well get on with it.
That’s the spirit.
Any other “treats” in store for me? As a fresh new Considerably Older guy?
You may notice that strangers will insist on helping you, when you’ve made it clear you’re getting along very nicely.
That’s already happened. Just the other day, a fellow grabbed me by the shoulder and hauled me across a boulevard. By the time he released me, I found myself in a strange neighborhood, fighting off a mugger.
With the cane?
Yes. I broke it, but it startled the fellow and he ran off.
Do you have any pointers on getting through this rough patch?
Rough’ doesn’t begin to describe it. But I’ll try to help.
- Take yourself out for an airing each day.
- In restaurants, check your trousers to make sure that a slice of liver and onions, for example, hasn’t fallen into your lap…
- Before going out for the evening, check your nose and ear hairs.
- Tip generously. You may need a doorman, for example, to gather you up and load you into a cab, after you’ve had a drink. One drink, incidentally, will now do the work of three.
- Practice falling. Simply drop to your knees and attempt to get up.
I’ll get started immediately. But I haven’t heard a word about fun.
Fun? Best not to think in those terms. Muddling through is a reasonable goal.
I’d planned to go canoeing through Slovakia’s waterways.
You can forget that. This is different, but it’s an adventure nonetheless. By its nature, it’s a once-in-a lifetime experience and there is no reason to be gloomy about it. At a performance of Lear, for example, be grateful that you’ve seen Lear, that Lear is behind you and there is no need to endure Lear again.
(recalls) Those interminable passages. And that Canadian actor who plays Lear. (shudders).
There’s no need to say his name. We all know who he is. Much good luck to you, Considerably Older Guy. You’ll need it for this go-round. You may be a shadow of your old self, a wisp, a shell of a man, but it’s still you. There’s no reason you can’t deal with The Big One, although how you manage it is anyone’s guess.
Who are you, incidentally?
Are you familiar with The Socratic Dialogues?
No, but they’re on my to-read list. I hear they’re chockablock full of clever passages.
You didn’t say that. You didn’t say it and I didn’t hear it.
You will be along to help me through all of this.
(Despairing) And then you’ll leave. But that’s life, I guess. One long series of goodbyes in preparation for the biggie.
Please don’t say biggie.
Think of it this way. Once you’re ready to wrap it up…
Can we not say “wrap it up?”
Fair enough. When you get to that juncture, however you want to describe it…the final inning? … the last round-up?
Good God. I was better off with “wrap it up.”
When you get there—think of it this way: At least you won’t have to sit through Lear again.
If I can interject…
Tick, tick, tick.
As a Considerably Older Guy, will I at least be relieved of the daily drudgery, that affects us all? Taxes, in-laws, hangnails?
That’s what I thought.
Good. You are on the road to success as a Considerably Older Guy.
Bruce Jay Friedman is a novelist, playwright and screenwriter. His memoir, Lucky Bruce, was published last year. Along with Michael Cera, he recently adapted his short story, “Brazzaville Teenager,” into film.