Thursday, September 19, 2013
I don't suppose every 65-year-old man is anxious about his masculinity, but I am. It probably doesn't help that I spent the last forty years of my life in a classroom. Besides, when it comes to fixin' and makin' things, I'm a forever clutz. And the fact is, I am 65; for a ton of years I used to kid myself about this or that "mid-life crisis." Along with a plethora of other jokes, that one's got no more currency.
And then there's this. We're building a house. Don't misunderstand: I am not building the house. I'm paying a whole gang to do it, all of it. Just about every night after the painters and cabinet-makers, the electricians and the plumbers check out, our new place has taken another step toward completion; but our building a house is baloney. What goes on inside, I watch.
Not doing the work doesn't help either--watching, I mean, while all around me, people who are dang good at what they're doing are laying tile and kitchen counters and carpet. Me?--I watch well. I'm a good spectator, maybe even something of fan, at times a cheerleader.
Anyway, this old bison, weary in the knees and barely able to stay with the herd, is proud to relate yesterday's headline news, and here it is: yesterday, in the heat of later summer day, amid sweat and dust and more dang dead weight than I'd cleaned and jerked in years, I actually wore out clothes.
You read that right. I'm telling the truth here. Years and years ago already, I remember telling myself that either my paunchiness grew me out of clothes, or else I got tired of this or that shirt or pants and tossed 'em in the direction of the Salvation Army or some "Nearly New" shop. I never ever wore anything out. I didn't do work that could.
Yesterday, I did. About every half hour whatever seams in this pair of shorts were still there amidst the crucial geographies screamed aloud and gaped revealingly. But that's not all--the legs are ragged where the cloth itself is frayed and unravelling. I swear. Those shorts are wrecked. It really happened. They're genuinely beyond repair. I got to toss 'em. I wore 'em out.
I'm telling the truth. I'm still a man.
No, I didn't belly up to the bar downtown last night, or hop on my Hawg--I don't have one. I didn't swig a bottle of Grain Belt and wipe off my lips with the back of my arm or head to some den and clean my guns. I entertained a notion of bedding my wife, but it was never more than a notion and little more than entertainment. I may have made more old man noises than normal--you'll have to ask her.
But the fact remains: for the first time in years, I actually wore something out, a loose-fitting pair of shorts, actually wore it out. Seriously. I can't remember the last time that happened.
The one thing I can do over there at the new house is piece watermelon-sized field stones into a retaining wall. It's like making picture puzzles except there are no box covers and the pieces aren't thumbnails. At the end of the day (which is to say, about three hours or so), my shoulders and elbows wince when I move them and scream when, an hour later, I pick up a dishrag. After the first day on the first wall, I had trouble closing my hands.
But yesterday--thank God a'mighty--I actually wore out a pair of shorts.
But, when push came to shove last night, I couldn't throw 'em away so they're hanging up in the garage right now with my other work clothes because they've become more than a pair of shorts. They're a symbol.
I sound like an English teacher.
But I'm a man. I'm still a man.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:01 AM