Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On aging

Young Old
            GRANDVIEW, WA – I was sitting on a wire bench at the Walmart Pharmacy in Sunnyside waiting for someone to call my name. I had my doctor call my drug order into the Sunnyside Walmart, because I didn’t have the phone number for the pharmacy at our Dairy Queen. Did I ever mention that Grandview is a small town?
After a 20 minute wait in the line for pills, I was told to report to the drop-off line. Odd, because I had been told over the phone that my pills were ready, so I had nothing to drop-off. I suppose I should’ve immediately walked to the front of the to assure that I was in the right line. I think only one or two in line ahead of me would've pummeled me. Washingtonians are a generally nice people. They're just not all that gullible.  
After a short wait in the drop-off line, the pharmacy lady asked for my insurance card. I was an idiot not to think that the insurance card goes to the "drop-off" line. The lady then politely told me to wait until my name was called. I had heard no names called during my wait, so figured she was just messing with me.
When I asked her if she was messing with me, she pointed to the waiting-bench. The pharmacists at Conroe's Kroger never told me to sit. When Martha saw me, she would run over, smile, and ask how Kay and I were doing. All the while she’d be checking the computer for my prescription info.  
So, there I was 2300 miles from home sitting on a bench in Walmart, studying shoe inserts on nearby shelves. You would not believe the variety of shoe inserts available in this country. That’s exactly what I was thinking when a lady, pushing a cart in which a youngster was riding wheeled up and remarked, “Grandma’s tired, so I’m going to sit here on the bench and wait.” The boy in the cart said, “You mean you're going to sit next to the old man?”
The old man? My time had arrived. I know I’m old, but that’s the first time I heard anyone described me as such. I would’ve preferred he called me “The man in the green shirt.” -- Kids! Are they cruel or what? Grandma said, “Jackson! That is so rude. Now, apologize to the man.”
Even though I was crying inside, I started fake-laughing. When the chips are down, I can be a fairly convincing laugher. Jackson had no idea why he had to apologize, but he did tell me he was sorry. I told him it was okay because I was an old man. I asked him how old he was, and he had to think about it before holding up four fingers and then adding his thumb. I said, “Five.” He said, “Yes, fife.”
At the age of fife, I could say my age without the use of any appendages. Of course, since I’ve become an “old man” I’ll likely forget how old I am in the not too distant future.
I did some research today and discovered that in Canada they have assigned old people into three categories. The first phase (65 to 74) is called “Young Old.” The second (75-84) is “Middle-Old.” The third (85 and beyond) is called “Old-Old.” When you get on in age, I recommend you not move to Canada. Those people will depress the daylights out of you. 
Even though Jackson's label cut me deep, I’m still glad I got to meet him. He was a good talker, showing signs of near-intelligence. For example, he had a black smudge on the tip of his nose and his grandmother called him Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I thought that odd, because the dirt wasn’t red. I said, “You mean Rudolph the Dirt Nose Reindeer.” The kid corrected me. “No, I’m Jackson the Dirt Nose Reindeer.”
It was during our discussion on superheroes that I heard my name called. Sure enough, a lady behind the pick-up counter was motioning for me to pass everyone in line and pick up my prescription. I imagine she only did that as a courtesy to a Young Old man.
While standing just outside the pharmacy-area waiting for Kay to show up, I heard, “Goodbye, mister!” I turned to see the dirt-nosed kid. “Goodbye, Brandon!” I said. He corrected me. “No, I’m Jackson!”
All of those in the vicinity of the pharmacy heard me holler, “Right! And, I’m Mark!” It was my intention to make Jackson think I was joking about forgetting his name. Truth is I was doing good to come up with “Brandon.”.
 Jackson’s reply was drowned out by Kay walking up with a cart containing most of the groceries on her list. That made me super glad I waited with Jackson, because I got to miss out on the shopping. I have hated shopping ever since I was Middle Young.
You can contact Mark at You can revisit Mark’s articles all the way back to 2009 at

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