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It's official - I had a birthday, I'm old and I'm a Curmudgeon.
It's official. Today is my birthday. I am now 53 years old; and have lived in portions of 7 decades. I have reached an age whereby I have applied for and been admitted to a very select club. The Curmudgeons Select Series United (CuSSed). My resume has been submitted, the rigorous standards met, and acceptance has been offered. I have been working towards this very point most of my adult life; and maybe even part of my pre-adult life. For many years I have carefully studied those which have gone before, those unafraid to stand out from the crowd by being different: in other words, being politically incorrect. There have been a few who I have idolized over the years, such as my Grandfather Asher. I cannot remember a single smile crossing his face in all the years I knew him. But he was quick with a hug when times required, just don't ever find one of those times while around him. He was more prone to hold you accountable for the stupid things you did when misbehaving, rather than hold you and whisper soothing words to you. Take the time I disobeyed him while he tilled his garden. I was plenty old enough to understand "No" and follow direction. I just didn't want to. So I followed along behind him as he walked along the just tilled rows, and walked right into an underground hive of yellow jackets. They were quite upset at having had their home tilled up, and swarmed around my bare legs (I was wearing shorts) and stung me unrepentantly until I realized what was occurring. I screamed loudly and ran back to the house as fast as I could. My Grandpa followed along at a more sedate pace, and when he reached me, sobbing and crying in my Grandma's arms, quietly let me know it was my own fault, and turned and continued tilling. I would not be the curmudgeon I am today without that sterling example given to me while still so young. I set my feet upon a path which I proudly stand today.
One whose works I have attempted to emulate over the years is the Master Curmudgeon himself, Walter Matheau. When I saw him in that wonder of wonders, Dennis the Menace, I understood him. He was exactly what I wanted to become - insensitive of others, desiring nothing but his own peace and quiet, unsupportive. A man can go a long, long way before finding such a role model. It saddened me greatly that he succumbed to something so ridiculous as simpering relief at the end, though. But as the movie ended, and he sat with a flaming marshmallow on his forehead, I was left with high hopes that he would once again attain curmudgeon-hood.
And his work in the Grumpier Old Man movies! Spectacular! The genuine warmth with which he delivers the lines such as "Nag!" to Sofia Loren; and "Putz" to Jack Lemon are examples to be followed by we older men. Now the part played by Burgess Meredith was good as well, but I think he had just a little too much good in him as evidenced by his singing that sickly sweet song "Dream a little dream of me" to that spoiled little girl. I mean, how can we take him seriously as a curmudgeon if he sings a nite nite song to a little girl! The scene whereby Sir Walter pushed Jack's ice fishing shack into the thin ice was truly memorable. Ah, if only I could one day attain such a wonderful place where I could do something such as that to one I called friend!
As it is, I must find ways to be curmudgeonly in my life were they lay. It may be at dinner, where everything is wonderful, but I find that the potatoes are cold. I must sometimes force down the obligatory "Everything is wonderful!" statement and give the cold, hard, honest truth. "Ah, the potatoes are cold, but I'll eat them anyway." It is sometimes hard to watch the smile leave their faces, but one must be what one must be. And I am a Curmudgeon.
I do find it difficult to be a Curmudgeon in the real world, however. Too many people take offense at the truth. One must watch one's step in the workplace. Generally speaking, others do not take kindly to such statements as "Yes, you smell horribly" or "I really don't care why you are late, the fact remains you are late. You're fired." or the timeless "Will you shut up? I don't care about your life outside of what you do here for me. I am the only thing that should matter while you are at work. Focus on pleasing me, and me alone." If only we could say what we really think!
It can be difficult at home, as well. Perpetually smiling faces surround; a wife who adores you can create cracks in your curmudgeon-hood through which honest emotions can creep, and annihilate all that you have worked for. Those consistently happy children who give you pause for thought that they might just be as good as they seem. Never mind the momentary selfish acts such as leaving you alone and cleaning up after themselves; it makes it hard to be upset at these happy, loving people around you. As a matter of fact, if I am being honest here (and as a curmudgeon, one must tell the truth!), I kind of like having hugs given for no reason, and hearing my wife tell me she loves me no matter what, and having my youngest son curl up next to me on the couch and say "You're the best Daddy in the whole wide world!" while watching a movie or cartoons. It tends to warm my ice cold heart the same way the ice melted in Scrooge's heart when he was forced to look at his life in a different manner.
Perhaps I am not a curmudgeon after all! Perhaps, like the Grinch, my heart has swelled three times today! After all, it is my birthday, and I received presents, both those purchased and those given freely in the form of love and adoration. Perhaps, I am loved! Wow! Can you imagine! It is my birthday, and Thanksgiving all rolled in to one big present! Happy Thanksgiving, one and all! Eat hearty, enjoy fellowship, and give thanks for that which you have been blessed! I give thanks for my wife, and my children; for the bountiful harvest from which we shall eat; and I ask blessings for those less fortunate than ourselves, those who may not have family to share this holiday with. We have friends of our daughter coming over, as they are married but have no family nearby. We have been chosen to be their family for the day. We have our 19 year old prodigal son coming for dinner, and he is bringing his girlfriend. I have been advised to be nice, and grudgingly will do so. We even have my mother-in-law coming for dinner. Yeah. Perhaps I can maintain my curmudgeonly behavior just a tad for her. After all, my birthday gift from her was a pair of sweats with "Juicy" across the seat of the sweats. They were on sale, she advised. Great deal, only $0.50!
I must respectfully decline the offer to join CuSSed this year.I find that I still have a ways to go to achieve true curmudgeon-hood. I love my family, and enjoy their smiles; I love my wife, and will do anything to assure she continues to love me; and I love to make people smile. I hope you are smiling now, fellow hubbers. I wish naught but the best for each and every one of you, and wish all a Happy Thanksgiving!