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Grumpy Old Man

Spiritual Stew

Grumpy Old Man

There is a great American literary tradition of grumpy old men. Jaded men like Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, and H.L. Menken used satire, wit, and cold sarcasm to voice opposition to affected manners, vanity, political corruption, and shallowness. These cantankerous codgers ridiculed the things they had no sympathy for and I have found myself slipping into their bog in some of my writing about retirement.

Something about getting older makes you a bit crankier. Let’s list the possibilities of what might cause this dysphoria, shall we?

  • A more regular stream of aches and pains that may have nothing to do with any exertion whatsoever. I have had the recent pleasure of having a kidney stone and it sure does put a crimp in one's attitude. 
  • Reduction in hearing makes people more out of touch in general and suspicious about the mutterings of others. After many years, my siblings and I figured our that my father's ambiguous chuckle in response to things that we asked, actually meant, "I have no idea what you just said."
  • Clouding eyes and degrading sight, complete with the shuffling of glasses put one off. I have found myself staring at objects determined to figure out what they are with more limited data. 
  • Teeth? The things elders have to do to their mouths just to keep something normal happening in there! 
  • Folks may be coping with the lack of influence as they are no longer holding the reigns of power or economic decisions they had while working.
  • A bit more inactivity gives us the time and inclination for critique as opposed to production.

After reading this list, I'm surprised any of us over 60 smile at all. Especially considering the bad teeth.

The model of the grumpy old man lives vividly in television characters of many generations:

  • Mr. Burns - The Simpsons
  • Fred Mertz - I Love Lucy
  • Al Bundy - Married with Children
  • Sheldon Cooper - The Big Bang Theory
  • Archie Bunker - All in the Family
  • Oscar the Grouch - Sesame Street

I’m not sure I want to turn into a curmudgeon, but optimism takes more and more work and has such a different texture: “Maybe the gout won’t be as bad tomorrow.” “Perhaps white tribalism will turn against orange people.” “Think of how much less snow we will need to shovel when global warming turns Albany into Miami.” There's a positive side to everything! Heh. This sarcasm is kinda fun. Tell me if it gets too dark. Not that I will hear you.