“The child is father to the man.” – William Wordsworth
You’re as old as you feel. Well, according to the saying anyway. They are not referring to whether your bones ache when you wake up in the morning, there is something else… the tendency to be a certain emotional age that remains constant throughout a lifetime.
Case in point. We used to have a neighbour across the road who propped up my theory. We didn’t know him well, but as neighbours across the road go, we saw him a lot. We also saw a lot OF him, more than we would have liked to. The kids called him butt-crack man, a title he earned in the day to day of neighbourhood life.
Apparently, he had spent his career as a rocket scientist, literally. He was a smart guy who had made a good living from it, and now he was divorced and retired. He had a great pension, a nice house with a pool, a younger girlfriend and time on his hands. Our neighbour liked to take off his shirt in the summer and work on old cars in the front driveway, and the kind he liked to work on was of a particular model. He had three of them which were pretty much identical. We would see him in good weather, bent over and sweating over some engine work in one of his three charges. When you looked out the window, you would see more of our neighbour than was proper. Hence, the title. Little kids are not subtle. They cut to the chase.
My theory on Butt-Crack Man, was that he was permanently about seventeen, the age where he had bought his first car, and loved to work on it. The age where he had likely discovered girls and perhaps enjoyed some action in the spacious back seat of his car. Like the Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days”, sometimes you live your life, trying to remake a certain age, over and again. It might have been the best age you were ever at, in a lifetime.
I also have an inner age which I would gauge to be about fifteen. Don’t ask me why. It’s an inpenetratable mystery of which I partake but do not fully comprehend. You see this age come out in humour. Guy humour, likely the kind you would not put on display at a cocktail party. It’s the reason you can see some grown men lift up their leg and shoot you a wicked glance while they break wind loudly. They take particular joy in it. It’s also the kind of thing that shocks kids. It’s the inner fifteen year old, on display. You will have to put him back in his cage and try to resist, but somewhere inside that inner fifteen year old lives on, scratching and prodding to come to the surface.
If you have ever gone on a men’s hunting or camping trip, the inner fifteen-year old will be in full bloom. That’s when you can see how much has been trying to surface for a long time, but polite company, wives, and the constraints of work have not allowed this to be. Men will suddenly pipe into rhyming songs that start with “I once knew a girl from Montreal” et cetera. You will see grown men sneezing while saying “SONOFABITCH” loudly, and perhaps doing impressive imitations of Curly from the Three Stooges, a kind of humour all men get and all women hate. That inner fifteen year old will have to be safely tucked out of the way once the men on that trip return home.
There are good things to be observed about this, I am sure. Youth is to be prized. There are things about youth that are perennial as time, a bit of optimism, things to look forward to, energy devoted to sometimes obscure or arcane things, and a huge dose of personality. It’s also a good thing that the inner fifteen year old gets taken out for the occasional walk. Life at the zoo will be just a little bit more calm.
There is something pernicious in life that is always trying to do in that inner fifteen-year-old, or whatever inner age you may happen to be. Don’t give in. Your inner fifteen-year-old wants to live.
I have a neighbour Edward, down the block. He is always building something in his garage. Tinkering with cement, electricity, welding, like a mad scientist. I love this guy. We have some awesome chats. He is perenially curious, and always pushing and prodding at the limits of life. His creative juices must vent or this guy would literally explode. He is bursting with life, an age that I would peg at about ten years old, but on steroids. Blessed with better tools and a bank account. His inner age is what drives him. It’s a beautiful thing.
The alternative perhaps, a washed up and very dry old person with nothing to animate them. No interests, no queries of the mind that keep that inner spirit juiced and active. Well, fifteen is a long way from gone. Fifteen is also about as good an age as any. If polled, nobody is going to say they feel eighty, at least I don’t think so. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, indeed.