The Marine View Driver: Growing Up at the Age of Fifty Or So

Wherein the author encounters his (ahem!) true self.

By Mike Smith

Getting old is a real eye-opener. It is also a little scary.

I’ve begun to do things I never thought I would do. My time with friends is changing, my desires are changing, and I am becoming content. Can this be happening?

Another thing that is happening is I am becoming less crotchety, not more so. I was sure I was supposed to go the other way. I was a rough-and-tumble temperamental little kid. Pop guns with “real bullets” made of mossy dirt clods. Climbing trees and trying to jump from one to the other without touching the ground or killing myself. I did fall once and very nearly impaled myself on a broken spindly stump. I quit that. But bike riding and baseball and any other sport with a ball were always on my agenda.

When I got older I had cars and spent every waking minute trying to make them go faster than designed by adding horsepower without understanding the dangers. But now? I am softening up. I’m easily distracted from selfish pursuits to do things others (including my wife!) want me to do.

Let me explain with a few little snippets from my recent past.

Last Friday night, I was minding my own business thinking about how I would while away the couple of hours my wife was going to spend with “the girls” at their favorite thrift store. I was thinking: have a beer, watch some sports on TV, maybe sleep. At the very least I was going to wear some sloppy clothes and spill stuff. You know, do something guy-ish. We had just returned from an afternoon of errands and I was walking into the house across the freshly-mowed lawn raising my hands to rub them together in anticipation of my ‘man-cipation, when my wife calls to me and says. “Would you go with me to the thrift store tonight?”

“Don’t look at her,” says the little black devil on my shoulder.

But I drop my hands to my side to cover my obvious selfish scheming and look at her. Yup, just as olSad-Puppy-Face-Pictured Blacky warned; she gave me the look. You know the look…

It’s all in the eyes. Darn that look.

Instead of my expected and historically corroborated ghoulish rolling of the eyes, I said, “OK.”

Providentially, as I arrived a great friend of mine was just dropping off his own thrifty wife–what a wimp! He saw me. He calls me on the phone and invites me to do something manly. To which I agreed and could not park my car fast enough so as to jump into his.

So while the girls shopped The Marine View Diner and I had fro-yo.

Yup. Manly.

Then, today was a sunny seventy-degree clear day. A great day for traditional guys like me to work on their cars, drink beer, watch sports, wear sloppy clothes, and spill stuff. So I parked my car in the alley behind my house and got out my tools whereupon I was interrupted by my wife who said my grandson wanted to talk to me. So I dropped what I was doing to talk to him. What a soft-hearted sort that I am becoming. Of course anyone would talk to their grandson, but I was in the middle of something else and needed to stick with it. Can I get an Amen?

I spoke to two of my grandsons and my granddaughter. I loved it and did not feel the least put out. I even told them some of my most reliable jokes. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing the joyful giggles of young kids having a good time listening to their dear grand papa tell them jokes.

Jokes about tough guys and stuff, of course. Sigh.

I finally did finish my car project. Feeling all masculine again and ready for a beer. My wife invites me to have a pedicure with her.

Do they serve beer?

Let’s just say I liked it. Nothing guy-like about it. And that was alright with me. It was actually quite luxurious, even though I did not spill anything on myself.

Then tonight I watched the tail end of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and got a little teary-eyed. I didn’t think I was becoming more sensitive. Now, I’ve always been an emotional guy. Just never for other people and their issues. It is so much easier when I get upset because of personal disappointments. It seems so natural, so right, so native. But to have real feelings for others and to be concerned more about their feelings and needs than my own is a paradigm shift.

Is there something I can take for this?

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