When eating dinner with my parents recently I was asked 150 times if my steak was tender enough. Not one mention about the flavor. Just an unhealthy level of concern over my ability to chew the piece of meat in front of me. It could be marinated in baby spittle or sprinkled with cat shit, but as long as it’s tender, apparently I’ve got nothing to worry about. This perturbs me. For one reason, I hate being asked the same question over and over again. Two, if more attention was paid to the flavor I would actually be enjoying this steak so very much more. But you don’t give a shit about my dinner, and this isn’t about steak anyway. What I’m saying is, it took this lovely dinning experience for it to dawn on me: My parents are old.
These old people (fogies?) are not question-torturing me to be evil but because they really do care. They just no longer have the teeth to get through tougher meat and still have the parental instinct for me to not starve to death, so they worry. As for the flavor, they’re so old that their taste buds packed up and left with their sex drives, savings (thanks College), and hopes for successful children (thanks again college!). I often ponder (read: piss and moan) about how old I’m getting. My topics here have included getting fatter, pissing myself, wondering where I went wrong in life, and generally being a grumpy old man. But by focusing so much on my increasingly unsavory body and my depressing march toward an inevitable mid-life crisis, I forgot to take notice that my parents are reaching the tender old age (pun most definitely intended) of legal senior-citizenship. If I’m old, what the hell are they?
Don’t worry, your parents are old too. And guess what. They’re going to die. I say that not to be a dick, but because as parents get to this age, they actually want to talk about it. Not the actually croaking part (although my Dad does mention how he’ll be dead by the end of the week, without fail, every week). But estate planning. Wills. Meetings with their lawyers that you didn’t even know that they had. When your wealthy great aunt is fading and she that can’t tell the difference between you and your estranged cousin (where is that bitch Gina these days?), you don’t feel as bad speculating if there’s anything waiting for you in the will. But when your parents are discussing who gets the house, shit just got real. Sure, you’ll finally get to settle that debate as to who was the favorite (oh come on, you know they don’t like you both equally), but it’s generally a terrible thing to have to think about. I’m not ready to say goodbye to my parents. Sure when they’re 100 years old and I have to clean up their shit I’ll be more than okay with the possibility of being orphaned (what’s the cutoff age there?), but for now, it’s just too early.
We need our parents to keep on trucking well into old age. Where else can we have the experience of feeling like you’re in a sauna when stepping into their living room? Seriously, what the hell happens to parents sense of temperature as they get old? When you were younger they would wear just enough clothes around the house to not traumatize you, but still less than ideal for having to look at them directly during conversation. Now you’re all set. Mid-July and they are wearing wool sweaters. In winter, they will crank that furnace like they’re actually dying and ready to welcome the devil into their home. Which of course gives you the bonus old person quirk of getting to listen to how outrageous oil prices have gotten and exactly how much it used to be when they were younger. I remember the price of gas and the cost of a movie when I was a teenager although I’m not particularly motivated to bring it up too often. Our dear old parents will not only stage a soliloquy on the price of gas and theater prices when they were a teenager, but they will give you approximately five reasons why costs have gotten out of control, based on approximately zero facts. 8 out of 10 will also find a way to mention Obama in their explanation.
It’s hard to relate to your parents at certain point. Seriously, how could they side with Jeremy’s parents in those T-Mobile ads when everyone knows he killed himself to avoid speaking to them ever again? How can they spend 20 minutes complaining about the rising prices of Potato Chips but think spending $20 on tickets to see “Last Vegas” would be a good plan for Saturday night? The movie watching experience itself becomes pretty hopeless for our parents. They tune into the Oscars just to see how many of their contemporaries kicked the bucket this year and will get a little weepy during the montage. It’s irrelevant that they hadn’t thought about that actor or actress in 25 years and it will certainly not stop them from spending the rest of the night arguing with each other about whether or not they were in some shitty movie from 25 shitty years ago. You can’t fault them for not liking any of the new movies that come out considering most of them are just remakes, and therefore fall into the category of either trying to ruing a classic or “sucked the first time around, why waste my time again”. All that’s left are artsy foreign films, which as much fun as getting your parents riled up about having to read while watching a movie, is probably not worth trying to convince them. Also, they’re made by “foreigners”, so good luck with that.
I don’t imagine things getting better for us and our parents. They are already starting to retire, giving them less to talk about, and unfortunately a greater desire to share their non stories with you (or really anyone they can find). You can’t avoid them. They use Facebook, they have Iphones, and they will share that 3 week old cat video with you whether you like it or not. Even worse, they’ll go further down the spectrum of not caring what they say or do because screw it, they’re old. This makes going out in public more and more dicey. There’s still too many years left before the embarrassing semi-old person rudeness reaches the “just let them take the rolls home” old person level accepted within the general public. Christmas gifts will become more of the random things that you used to like 20 years ago variety. Memories will be wildly distorted or just plain forgotten, whichever makes your childhood seem happier to them into retrospect. Random waiters and store clerks will be unfairly picked on (or hit on), new boyfriends and girlfriends will be offended by their unapologetic racist remarks, and you will have to repeat yourself. A lot. But we need to cut them some slack. Like it or not, our parents are getting old. Fast. And so are we. Shit. Chew on that. Whatever, you’ve probably stopped reading by now. No? Fine, you write the ending.