I live in an area with a huuuuge amount of old people.
It's an area that was hyped up as a retirement area----and it's decrepit, aging, at times sad, and probably dangerous.
These super old people drive, and that makes it a risky adventure, on the streets here.
And, my Beach Buddy lives here too, although he is---absolutely---the youngest person here. He's in his very early 40's.
At first, he thought that all of the old people around here---well---he thought it was sad.
So many of them are alone, and it's obvious that there is little, if any, family oversight of the aging parent's care.
In one unit, he encountered an aging couple being cared for by a distracted, non attentive care giver.
The towels in their bathroom, were covered with mildew.
In another unit, he encountered a hoarder.
She had junk everywhere and the terrace was stuffed to the point that it was bulging.
It began to really get to my Beach Buddy.
He began to talk about the old people who live here---and how their existence was minimal; it consists of doctors, medications and a care giver who is not a family member.
If they have children, there is NO way that their children could possibly understand the extent of their parents' neglect.
He begins to hate what he is witnessing---a terrible aging process.
What an amazingly creative brain, my Beach Buddy possesses.
Within weeks of coming to visit me, he had completely recreated the space issue I was having in the kitchen.
He tackled problems within my space and solved them.
Never mind that I was oblivious to these problems.
He also began to do handy man jobs for neighbors. They all love him, I think it is really all about his youth.
He is in great shape, he's also a personal trainer. He's cute, and has a keen mind and a wicked sense of humor, too.
Several of his jobs included work created for him by a bored, fearful of aging man downstairs.
Arnold is typical of the almost extinct, Jewish, almost old guy. He talks softly, purses his lips as he talks, and he has a quiet demeanor as he tells stories.
His wife is a happy go lucky Gemini, who tolerates him, enjoys him, reminds him of forgotten parts of the stories he's recounting.
She also enjoys watching my Beach Buddy do his handy guy jobs---especially when he's wearing his tight shorts and tight tee shirts!
One day, as we were doing something around the house, my Beach Buddy began to imitate this 73ish or 74ish cute as a knaidelach mensch downstairs.
He nailed Arnold's speech, tone of voice and even began to slump his shoulders a bit like Arnold.
Stunned into gut wrenching fits of laughter, I realized that there was a side to Beach Buddy, that I had no clue about!
Almost daily, my Beach Buddy would pull out this imitation of Arnold, or others, at the appropriate moment, and while he would keep a straight face as he did this---I could not.
I would have to beg him to stop, so I could get some respite from laughing.
I never realized just how much my Beach Buddy was so different from me until, after months of him pushing the cart for me at Walmart, he suddenly told me that he hated to go there.
Not that I loved being in Walmart, the crush of humanity there, frequently would have an impact on me.
I lessened my trips there, out of consideration for my friend's aversion to being there.
My wonderful Beach Buddy, continued with his hilarious imitations of the old folk and I continued to avoid Walmart, at his request.
After several months of that, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we decided to take a trip over to Walmart and Big Lots.
I forget what exact nonsense I needed to pick up there that day.
I walked up and down the aisles, and was so into whatever it was that I just HAD to get, that I didn't realize what was happening.
As I walked out of one aisle, I spot my Beach Buddy, several rows to my right, I gesture to him to follow me and I begin walking in the opposite direction.
I realize that my Beach Buddy isn't right behind me.
"What could be holding him up?" I wondered to myself.
I turn around impatiently and see him, still a ways behind me.
"Hurry up, Buddy!" I yell down at him.
I turn and continue to make my way over to the whatshamacallit area---you know, where they have shampoo, Q-tips, body lotion, etc.
Whatever it's called, slips my mind for now---
I get to the beginning of it, and turn around and spot him.
A few aisles back, on the opposite side of the larger aisle that runs the length of the front of Walmart, I see that something seems to be amiss.
The first thing I notice is that his hat is all askew.
I knew something was weird with that---Beach Buddy spends an inordinate amount of time making sure that his baseball hat looks perfect on his head.
Another thing---his sunglasses were totally crooked, as they were perched diagonally across his face.
His head is partially turned to the side, almost as if he couldn't turn his head anymore---like it was frozen there.
I notice, as I'm walking towards him. that his lips are partially open, and they have this strange "pursing the lips" look to them.
I get closer and see a vacant look, total blank look---that no elevator goes to the top floor kind of look.
I gasped, as I was looking at him, and then caught a little, barely perceptible, mischievous glint in his right eye.
I snort uncontrollably, trying to get control of myself---and I pull the cart firmly, and said "Come along now, Poppa. Hurry it up!"
I turn and begin to walk, dragging the cart and Beach Buddy/Poppa, with me---I'm laughing as I do this---he's just given the performance of his life, so far-----the ultimate gotcha.
He was playing old.
He continued to do this, not breaking his shuffling stride at all---maintaining a vacant stare, and he even knocked stuff over from shelves, onto the floor.
On the checkout line---I looked back at him, hoping against hope that he had returned to normal----only to just about choke to death---
When I see him, lights out look plastered across his face, with a long string of drool, rolling out of his mouth, down his chin and then to a full 8 or 9 inches below that.
What to do?
I walked up to him, put my pointer finger right in his face and began to wave it---sternly scolding him "Poppa, wipe that drool off your mouth! Stop this now!"
I then rolled my eyes, and paid the cashier.
Then, in the weeks that followed, without warning---he would begin to do a quite different old fart shuffle--he would sort of push his right hip out and begin to stagger---his right arm would shakily reach for the banister. What Beach Buddy doesn't realize is---that while it's wildly funny to see how long he can keep up these Impersonations---what is clear, is that he's becoming similar to them.
One time, he was doing this thing that he does with his bagel. He gets out an egg, scoops out all of the bread from the shell of the bagel.
Sometimes, due to the structure of the bagel, he can fit two eggs in there.
Then, after the eggs are in there, he puts it all on a buttered piece of aluminum foil--- throws it in the toaster oven for 6 - 7 minutes, filling the air with a pungent burning smell, which bothers me to no end.
Cooking times may vary due to different toaster ovens.
When he took it out, and it cooled off a bit, he opened his mouth to take a bite.
He told me later, "I knew I was biting near the yolk. I just didn't realize how close. I had estimated that I was a mini bite or two away from striking the yolk. But I was wrong."
He goes on to inform me, "the next thing I knew, I was wearing a half cooked egg yolk emblem on my shirt."
I dared him to go downstairs to Arnold's and engage him in conversation.
I told him it would be a mitzvah for old Arnold.
The cognitive dissonance, that would be experienced, just might be the ticket to jar Arnold loose from the grasp of true old fartedness.
How could Arnold not see the egg yolk splattered all over the center of my Beach Buddy/World Renowned Bagel w/egg cook's shirt?
Arnold would look at Beach Buddy, taking in his youth, then his eyes would drop and take in the egg yolk splat.
Arnold would surely see that if it could happen to Beach Buddy, so much younger and with so much more vim and vigor, it could happen to anybody.
Wouldn't he then be shown the miraculous life lesson that he'd probably been reaching for these past few years?
That stained fronts of shirts are NOT the sole domain of old people?
Arnold needs to learn that HE, himself, is making himself old!
He needs to snap out of it!
Well, we talked about this, just now.
There is a spiritual growth path going on with this.
Beach Buddy is learning some hugely important life lessons, soul realizations and faith testing dark nights of the soul.
He just said, "That's for sure."
"I learned that the reality of others, and I don't want this to sound judgmental, that the reality of others does not dictate how I respond to the moment of NOW, or, what I might see for my own future path. That's it."
So here he is, in a very unlikely place---in his youth (although he does not want the aging process to be the same for him)---surrounded by the surreal existence of others that he witnesses on a daily basis.
He is surrounded by a harsh, grim reality of aging.
He would, and still does, say to me, "What IS this about? When will this end?"
I say to him, what I must say to him, "It will end when it ends. What we are seeing reflected here, with the aging population, is being shown to us for a reason."
And then I say, because I trust him with almost every part of my soul:
"IF you EVER let me get like this, I'll hunt you down from the Other Side. You won't know a moment of peace, I'll tap you on the shoulder, I'll give you great big wedgies with your Joe Boxer briefs, I'll mess up your hair, and I'll hide the chocolate cake you get for yourself every day. I'll take your keys and put them someplace else; I'll make you forget what you were going to say. I'll be in your dreams, I'll be in your nightmares---I'll be like that Lady Bug that stayed on the windshield of the car for the entire 25 miles distance, as we sped down the turnpike to work that day."
And, so it will be...