I spent a lot of time with my fabulous Grandmother recently and I just have to admit it: she's aged a lot in the past two years since I last saw her.
But I don't want to admit it.
After visiting her for a few days, on the trek home I saw four old men sitting together in a Tim Horton's. One seemed animated, the others a little bored. They were wearing matching clothing. By "matching" I mean the typical old guy uniform: plaid shirts, baggy old man pants, socks and galoshes.
Old people fascinate me; I kinda love them. Always have. My Grandma is one of my absolute favourite people and she just celebrated 88. Well, celebrated might be a misnomer. It's more like she ate her cake, cracked a joke and that was enough of that fuss. She's just totally over herself. We also spent time with my wife's Grandmother who has early Alzheimer's. She scrutinized me like she might any "stranger," but then she stepped forward, made eye contact, smiled coquettishly, rubbed my face and offered me a cookie. Both these old ladies make me pay attention to what I have and what I haven't. And that's how I think I may have solved this mystery: at what point exactly does one become old?
Remember counting birthdays? Pining for adulthood. I couldn't wait to be a man. And then I was. And then I got married and had kids and suddenly I was 32. And I couldn't even remember how old I was. And then this happened at a cousin's wedding: I ventured outside with a drink where a group of young people had gathered to share stories and so I shared a story too and everyone laughed and then some drunk kid in his early twenties said, "Hey who's the old guy?" They all looked at me. Confused, I turned around to look for the old guy too and that made them laugh again. I'd like to say it was a minor epiphany but what that little prick said stung a bit. I was the old guy?! At 32?
Thirty is not old. Nor is 40. Ditto 50. Even 60. It's not just the number. I'm sure now it's something else.
After observing those old men interacting, drinking their tea, their legs crossed, socks pulled up, galoshes dangling, I think I might know the point, the juncture, the very minute when one becomes old: it's when you stop wearing flip flops.
Think about it.
My Grandma insisted she didn't want anything for her birthday. She says she has everything she'd ever want plus a cane and a walker and one leg shorter than the other. If wish I could see her face when she opens my birthday package and discovers pink flip flops. I'd say that's instant youth.