I’m turning 60 years old in February, which as a child I believed marked one’s entrance into geezerhood. Now I’m supposed to say that since I’m 60, I don’t feel like a geezer, but that would be untrue. I feel like one of those people you read about in the newspaper who just turned 115 and a reporter visited them to take their picture and ask them the secret to their longevity and all the old person wanted was for everyone to leave them alone so they could watch Wheel of Fortune and take a nap.
The old person’s secret to longevity is always the same. They claim never to have smoked, vouch for the benefits of exercise, caution against red meat, and then mention they believe in God. I have never smoked a cigarette, end each day with a vigorous two-mile walk, seldom eat red meat, and have been a pastor for 36 years, but the way I feel now I’ll be lucky to see 65. If a newspaper reporter wants to ask me the secret to longevity, they better do it soon, while I can still construct a coherent sentence.
I’m not complaining, mind you. I’ve often felt like an old man trapped in a younger man’s body. When I was 10 years old, my idea of a perfect day was sitting on a bench in front of our town’s Rexall and complaining about teenagers. At the age of 12, I saved up my money for a pair of suspenders. On my 15th birthday, I turned 57. So to be 60, to be an official geezer, is a joy beyond compare. I’ve waited my whole life for this.
I intend to keep working until I die so I can be that one old guy in the office who disparages every new idea.
Growing up, I was envious of people who’d lived through the Great Depression and World War II, which trumped every catastrophe my generation experienced, except perhaps disco and Captain and Tennille. But having survived 2020, I can now tell young people they don’t know the meaning of hardship. I’ve been practicing what I’ll say the next time I hear a kid complain about something.
“You think you got it bad. I remember when there wasn’t any toilet paper and you had to drive into town to the Walmart to use the biffy.” (They won’t know what a biffy is, so I’ll have to explain that, too.)
“You think you got it bad. I remember people touching germy doorknobs and falling over dead.” (That never happened, but when complaining about hardship, one shouldn’t be constrained by truth.)
“You think you got it bad. I remember when they weren’t able to make new TV shows and we had to watch reruns for a year.” (Fortunately, now that I’m a geezer my memory is shot and every show is new.)
At this point, the young people will look at me with newfound respect, marveling at the adversity I’ve endured.
I’m seven years away from collecting Social Security, but I intend to keep working until I die so I can be that one old guy in the office who disparages every new idea, snorting in contempt at every advancement.
“Electricity? Why, when I started working here, we didn’t even have electricity. We did everything by hand. We were men back then.”
I’m the only person my church employs, so I’ll be talking to myself, but geezers do that all the time anyway.
If I survive it, this will likely be the best year of my life.
Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor and author of 22 books, including the Harmony and Hope series, featuring Sam Gardner.
This article is featured in the January/February 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
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