You're young till you're told otherwise

Opinion

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Sandra Johnson

Growing old comes as a surprise to most people. We go about performing our daily chores unaware of the signs of aging. We pay little attention to the small signs: graying hair, aching knees, or needing glasses. We brush these signs off like water off a duck's back. But blatant signs can't be ignored. They come unexpectedly in humorous ways. I know of three stories that reveal the surprise of growing old.

This is my story: One evening after work in 1995, I was on my way home. As I walked down State Street from Van Buren to Jackson to ride the Jackson bus to Laramie, I approached a McDonald's restaurant. I decided to stop, relax, and have a cup of coffee. I went in and ordered a cup of coffee.

"Do you want cream and sugar?" the teenage cashier asked pleasantly.

"Yes," I said.

The teenager went over to the huge steel coffeemaker and held a paper cup under the spout. While he put the cream and sugar in the coffee, I placed a dollar bill on the counter.

Even though I didn't know the cost of a small coffee, I expected change back. The teenager returned to the counter and handed me the coffee. He looked down at the dollar bill.

He said, "There's no charge for senior citizens."

I was shocked. I was red hot. I was almost hysterical! What the teenager said ruined my evening. I wasn't 60 or 70 years old. I was 57. I gathered my composure, picked up the dollar bill and went to an empty booth and sat. Allowing the shocker to sink in, I sipped the coffee. I felt better after I realized that age 57 wasn't that far from age 60. When I finished drinking the coffee, I left with a feeling of calmness about growing old.

The next story is about Annabelle, my girlfriend, who was 60 years old when she was surprised. On a hot July morning, Annabelle was at home performing daily chores. She washed two loads of laundry and hung them outside. She came back in and fixed lunch. After lunch, she spent the rest of the afternoon talking to friends on the telephone. Late in the afternoon, she decided to read a book and then take a nap. She looked for her eyeglasses; they weren't where she left them. She searched under the sofa pillows and beneath the books on the cocktail table. After she searched the living room, she went into the bedroom. She looked in the catch-all drawer, on top of the TV table and inside the night stand. No eyeglasses. She gave up and went back into the living room and sat. She was getting up to look in the kitchen when her daughter came home.

Her daughter looked at her and asked, "What's the matter with you? You look angry."

"Yes I am," she replied. "I've been looking for my eyeglasses for 20 minutes."

"Momma," her daughter said, "you're wearing them."

The final story concerns Edward, a family friend, who was also 60 when he was surprised. He drove to the Jewel Osco Pharmacy to pick up diet pills for his wife. He parked his 2000 black Ford Focus in the Jewel parking lot.

He went into the Osco and came out in a short time. He looked for his car, but it was gone. He walked a mile home. Tired from the journey, he rested before calling the auto insurance company and the Police Department. The same day, a police officer came to his house and made out a stolen car report.

A day later, the officer called to say his car had been towed after the Jewel Food Store closed. The officer asked him how he had missed his car.

"I was looking for a light green Chevrolet that was parked next to my car, but it was gone," he said.

Now I am 74 years old, and Annabelle and Edward are 81 years old. Surprises are over, but we are still growing old.

 

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