Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June 14, 2008--Midcoast: Alte Kaker Checklist

John and I have a lot in common.

Though I am a little older, at this age, the few extra years I have on him do not make that much of a difference. We both have our aches and pains.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. He, on the other hand, likely has a different perspective and probably thinks those few years do make a difference, quite a difference. He after all two weeks ago with a buddy drove 10 hours north to the Gaspe Peninsula and went salmon fishing in the Cascapedia River. In the rain and in a canoe, if you can believe it. His partner caught a 35-pound salmon the first morning out and John helped land it.

I, on the other hand, that weekend, did a lot of reading and napping.

So when we met at Chrissy's for breakfast after he got back--wheezing and coughing--we picked up on one of our favorite discussions--aging.

Another thing we share in common is the fact that we both had ancient mothers. John's died two years ago at about 105; mine nearly a year ago at 107. So, from that alone, we are authorities on the subject.

And thus in an attempt to inoculate ourselves from the inevitable, we try to make light of this otherwise terrifying subject. So after hearing about the salmon (and seeing pictures to prove he wasn't just spinning a fish story), I unveiled my latest idea--an Alte Kaker Checklist.

Though John is not Jewish and doesn't understand many Yiddish expressions, having grown up in nearby New Jersey he knows enough to know that alte kaker refers to us--gracefully-aging men.

"Give me an example of what would be on the checklist," John said, humoring me. He had more salmon-fishing stories he was eager to share.

After hearing a few more, I said, "For example, Do you have two-inch-long hair growing our of (a) your eyebrows, (b) your ears, (c) your nose, (d) all of the above."

Warming to this, John plunged in, "In my case, eyebrows for sure." He brushed them up to demonstrate.

"I also see one growing out of the tip of your nose," I said leaning toward him and squinting.

Noticing the squinting he said, "How about--"How many pairs of glasses do you need?"

"For me--three," I said, "(a) one of course for reading, (b) another for driving, and then (c) a third pair for middle-distance seeing. Like for watching TV."

"I only need two," he said, flaunting his superiority or to emphasize that three or four years difference in our ages does in fact make a difference. "But," he quickly confessed, "I do or did have a detached retina. In alte kaker terms that must count for something."

"Unfortunately, yes," I said, "Admittedly though it's not the same thing, I'm growing cataracts," I said, to one-up him, "I think in both eyes."

"I already had mine done," he said. "Also both of them. Remember that--two, three years ago?"

"Put that on the checklist too," I said, "Unable to remember things from (a) childhood, (b) two years ago, (c) yesterday."

"Or, how about (d) what you just had for breakfast?"

"I think maybe it was a croissant."

To play along with him, I tried to sound befuddled. Which unfortunately was not that difficult to do. "Clearly also coffee," I said tapping my half-full mug.

"Can we agree to leave aches and pains off the list?"

"I understand. That could be a checklist all its own--an aches and pains one."

"While fishing," John said already violating our agreement, "I developed this pain in my shoulder." Grimacing, he rubbed it, "I had trouble casting my flies into the river. And forget about driving."

Changing the subject, I said, "How about, (a) no longer drive after dark, (b) can't hear cars passing on the right or left, (c) drive in the left lane five miles an hour below the speed limit."

"I've got another one for you," John chuckled, "(d) ignore wife's driving directions."

"How about (a) wearing a belt with suspenders, (b) need orthopedic shoes, (c ) found myself wearing one brown and one black sock."

"Or, (a) can't bend over to tie my shoelaces, (b) . . ."

"Me too. These days I find myself preferring slip-ons."

"Need to sit on the side of the bed when putting on my jockeys and pants."

"How about, (a) wake up to go the bathroom, (b) wake up twice to go, (c) three times, (d) . . ."

"New rule," John said cutting me off.

"What's that?"

"I think we should agree not to go there."

"Go where?"

"How should I put this--below the belt, if you get my meaning."

I quickly did and agreed. "Indeed I do. This is supposed to be fun. In another minute it could get depressing."

"I'll tell you what's depressing," John said.

"What's that?"

"That you're thinking about wearing suspenders."

"Or your admitting you get up three times a night to . . ."

"I said no such thing. The situation is bad enough without needing to get too specific."

Beginning to get up--he still has a business to run--he signaled to me to turn my one good ear toward him and with a lowered voice admitted, "OK, maybe two times."

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