On Aging

This may come as a shock to some, but the non-anthropomorphic truth is that dogs are not people.  Some folks treat them like people, expect them to act and react like people, and expect them to age like people.  Such folks are inevitably disappointed, even devastated when reality comes knocking.  I know.  My dad is the personification of devastation because he has chosen to view me as his furry human buddy instead of his canine superior companion.  When my twelfth birthday rolled around recently, and I began to slow down and show various other signs of age, Dad apparently refused to face the reality that I was in my golden years.  So, I sat him down and we had a little chat.  It went something like this:

Flap:  Let’s talk about aging.

Dad:  OK.  I’m somewhat familiar with the Aegean area of the Mediterranean.  What do you want to know?

F:  You really are a moron.

D:  And you’re an idiot.

F:  Why don’t you try listening closely for a change.  I’m getting older, and I can sense that you have stuck your head firmly in the sand, refusing to acknowledge what is in front of your eyes.  I’m twelve now, and that’s not too far away from the finish line for my breed.  Aside from the simple chronology, have you not noticed the signs?

D:  You mean the ones you slapped all over your kennel which say, “Senior Aussie.  Handle With Care?”

F:  Well, yeah.  But I’m also talking about how I don’t run like I used to, how I sleep a lot more, how I don’t hear very well, how I have trouble getting into the car, and how I don’t play as enthusiastically as I once did.

D:  Well, you could just as easily apply those conditions to Mom and me.  It might surprise you to know that we have indeed noticed your signs of aging.  And, yes, we act like we’re ignoring them because we worry for you and because it’s difficult to face where it’s all leading.

F:  Hmm.  Let me clue you into something.  I’m a dog.  As such, I don’t dwell on the past and I don’t worry about the future.  I live in the moment.  And while I’m in the moment, though I may be feeling aches and pains, and though I cannot do things I once was able to do, I do not fear that one day I will pass away.  I wish you didn’t either, but I understand that you and I are hardwired differently, and you can’t help stressing about things over which you have no control.

D:  Fair enough.  But this isn’t just a “thing” like the house needing painting or the car needing repairs.  This issue has emotion attached to it.  And so we worry about your diminishing capacities and about one day losing you.  You’re part of the family, and it’s only natural that we feel this way.  So, while you’re in the moment, give that a bit of thought.

F:  To what end?  I can empathize with your worrisome nature and your fears, but I can never truly understand them, just as you can never really know what it’s like to evolve to my higher form of thinking.

D:  Higher form?  You’re an idiot.

F:  And you’re a moron, but let’s see if we can rise above it all.

D:  OK, what do you suggest that Mom and I do as you continue showing significant signs of aging?

F:  Why not just try to enjoy each others’ company while we still can, and let the chips fall where they will?  You’re fond of   that quote:  “Worry is the dividend paid to disaster before it is due”, so why not adhere to it?  Look, let’s make a deal.  If you stop feeling sad and morose over my old age, I’ll stop feeling sorry for your unbridled stupidity.

D:  Idiot.

F:  Moron.

And that conversation, which will undoubtedly be immortalized as one of the great inter-species philosophical dialogues of all time, brought each of us to a new and happier existential state.  No, not the state of Nevada, but rather a state of acceptance and peace.  And to a realization that aging, whether it occurs in the Mediterranean or closer to home, is not something to fear, but a period to embrace.  Together.




Let’s Hear It For Uruguay

My dad’s baseball obsession can be traced back to when he was 5-years old and playing catch with his father in the backyard.  His dad clocked his slow-reflexed son in the head with a blazing 40 mph throw.  Some kids are motivated by watching big leaguers work their magic on a field of dreams.  My dad was inspired by a black eye and a concussion.  Go figure.

Over the years, Dad’s interests have greatly expanded beyond baseball.  Let’s see, there’s football, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf…you get the picture.  And once every four years, the most popular sport in the world becomes a bit more than a passing interest.  Yes, the World Cup, soccer’s (or futbol’s) crown jewel holds Dad captive as if it had even the most remote bearing on his existence.  And, as usual and customary, Dad is compelled to drag the family into the depths of his obsession.

And so, last Sunday he proclaimed that the World Cup championship match would be held in our backyard.  Dad chalked up the pitch and fitted himself and yours truly with shin guards, long socks, shorts and jerseys.  It was Dad, representing the U.S. team (yes, this was indeed a fantasy), vs. Flapjack, representing team Uruguay.  I can only assume that Dad chose Uruguay as my team because one of that team’s stars, Luis Suarez, was recently banned for 4 months for biting an opposing player.  As biting people is typically a dog thing, Dad apparently thought that Uruguay was a nice fit for me.  Mom was designated as the referee, and the game was afoot (so to speak).

Thirty-seven seconds into the first half, Mom slapped Dad with a yellow card because she didn’t like his attitude.  While this was happening, I quietly worked the ball into Dad’s goal, then did a victory lap around the field.  Mom allowed the goal to stand because she “thought it was cute.”  Dad was incensed.  He tackled me and we rolled across the pitch.  I was really into my role as a Uruguayan outcast, so I bit Dad on the shoulder.  He screamed at Mom to eject me from the game, but Mom red-carded him for yelling at her.  The game abruptly ended.  Uruguay one, U.S. nil.  Dad immediately  appealed to FIFA and then sequestered himself in his room in a dazzling display of dignity and good sportsmanship.

Mom and I sat in the living room like ESPN analysts and recapped the game.  She said, “Flap, what do you make of Dad’s behavior on the field today?  Do you think he went a bit overboard?”  To say that Dad goes a “bit” overboard is like similarly describing a Titanic victim.  I said, “Well, it’s difficult to understand emotional shipwrecks.  Perhaps it was something in his childhood.  I hear he suffered a concussion…”