Turning Old

It’s not that I hadn’t seen it a long time coming. No. I’ve felt grandpa taking seat in my soul when I was 35, 36. He all charming and handsome but cruel, bitter, and at times rude too. I knew he would sit down here one day. But I didn’t expect him so early.

I don’t want to blame him. Neither for his character and behaviour nor for his entering my house without even asking. I am his grandson nonetheless, so what did I expect? How could you show some annoying and mesmerizing relative the door? Especially, when there is none to slam at all? In therapy they tell you to embrace your suppressed parts to become whole, somewhat whole, a whole at all, whatever. But it’s not that I suppress my grandpa. I see him daily, I grudgingly allow him a place at the stove, to warm his feet, give him coffee too. It’s not that I suppress him, it’s just that I don’t like him. Or rather, don’t like him hanging around in my soul instead of chasing somebody else. Guess he has none, so he comes to me. Ghosts need a home too.

So grandpa sits inside of me. Not that we talk much, but he is there, staring grimly at a world he more and more feels estranged to. In fact, his rumbles are in accordance with his daily condition: If he feels weak and depressed, he rumbles more, if strong, he turns quite or goes into the other direction, all charming, entertaining, witty, sometimes even wise. Wise! What a hack – using anger to feel alive! Getting angry to turn weakness into virility. 


With my first spinal disc herniation age rushed in like a train without a break. It not only showed in my bones. Until then I had never known how natural and at ease my body movements were. Things were in flow, without even a glimpse of thought. After the incident, I had to think before I’d move. But even more frustrating and appalling were the consequences the damage had on my mind. My thinking started to become clunky and stodgy. It lost its quicksilver quality, its agility, its adapatability. Anger and frustration occur more often now. I’ve never seen this interdependence of body-movements and agility of thought (at least as it relates to me). All the sudden learning became more difficult and oblivion occured more regularly. My interest in the world and its affairs plummeted. Age it seems is not only a question of moveability but of us being able to spontaneously move, without thought or attempt.


Grandpa sat in the chair in front me, his face a bit covered in the dark. The stove gave warmth, the coffee pot sat on its top. He grinned sardonically. “You haven’t expected that, have you?” he asked. 

I knew what he meant. It was not that he had entered my house without even asking years before I had the incident with my back. No, it was this movement thing afterwards. When I was no longer able to move as if there were no obstacles, no load too heavy, no dance moves or daily motions too complex. When I recognized that with losing body agility I lost my thinking the watery ways as well. I hadn’t expected to become my grandpa in the moment I turned into his frailty.

He grinned at me. “Did you ever think I have turned into this kind of bastard voluntarily?” it whispered in my ear. “Did you ever believe we old people when dreaming about our youth are just mourning our holidays in the mountains or the trips to the café with the young lady that was to become your grandma someday? No, my dear, in dreaming about our youth we mourn our lost ways of acting, and with that our lost ways of kindness. We were young, too, you know. We were a nice bunch then. We too had kind and decent characters and manners, you know. What we mourned all these years was our turning into grumpy old sacks, bitter and wrathful tyrants. We longed for love. Not yours, although that is appreciated too. We longed for love curing our bones and with that healing our hearts and souls, to become friendly human beings again. We longed for our minds and souls to beome awestruck again! Gosh, can’t even remember when it was the last time I had a good idea!”

I knew what he meant even as his thoughts drifted. He not only longed for his youthful body, but for the young cheerful lad whom he liked to greet in the mirror at morning. He longed for the mindlessness with which he had encountered his world, he was desperate for the hope this once young man had in and for the world. He mourned the grace the gods once had bestowed on him to see and to love this world in this unique way only he was given to offer.

I understood. I saw his loss, his pain. An invisible tear ran over my cheek as I tried to rise from my chair to get me some coffee, wondering when my grandson might finally come for the visit he had promised me a while ago. Unreliable chap. Needs some demeanour, should have told his mother years ago ….


* * *


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3 Responses to Turning Old

  1. Luke Slater says:

    This is beautiful.

    I think the bitter, wrathful tyrant is so perhaps partly *because* he mourns the passing of his youth.

    @satipera dented something earlier today which also makes me think: “I skim read life that is why it is going by so fast.”


  2. simsa0 says:

    Hi Luke –
    Thanks for your nice comment. You really make it hard for me to fail to appear on identica, you know that? Keep charming ;)

    And yes, the tyrant is as he is partly because he mourns the young lad he once was, for the reasons told in the story. But of course, there is another side in that:

    All the ugly person needs is an opportunity to do something kind and friendly. That would not only show the world but himself as well that the good parts buried deep inside of him still live. That would break the ice. But of course, as he is this tyrant, no-one is going to offer him this second chance in form of an opportunity to do something nice. No-one asks a grump for a favour. And so he fades, in bitterness and wrath, spitting at a world that denies him this second chance.

    So bitterness has a double layer (at least a double layer): the mourning about a past, and hidden the wrath about a world that doesn’t offer a second chance to be kind and alive again.

    The grump sits in his cell, knowing that he can’t heal / rescue / enlighten himself. It has to be done from outside. From a kind soul different from him. Somehow he knows that. And the waiting makes him mad, while the longing keeps him at place. (There is a reason why in The Lord of the Rings Gollum is by far the most intricately painted character.)

    Best wishes


  3. Pingback: My Father’s Smell | simsa0's wordpress

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