My People

After a hectic few days of re-connecting with Bears training camp and Bourbonnais, Ill. (neither of which I can recommend),  and attending a Doobie Brothers concert where middle-aged white people attempted to hear some funky Dixieland and dance a honky tonk (not a pretty sight), I spoke this morning to a group my husband likes to call my “people.”

He says this as a dig, of course, because after 18 years of marriage, compliments are viewed suspiciously by both of us.

“My people,” as he calls them, generally fall into the category of all those over the age of 70. And he’s right. I love older people.  For starters, I feel I have a lot in common with them like persistent heartburn, a fondness for eating at 4:30 and a penchant for talking about the next meal beginning at breakfast.

Maybe it’s because, as the youngest of four children and separated from my next-closest sibling by seven and a half years, I spent a lot of time alone in the house with my parents. Aside from picking up my father’s Maalox habit, I bonded with them to the extent that I still feel most comfortable with people in their age group.

I should point out that my mother exhibited almost none of the qualities associated with older people. Before she was sick, she stayed up late, slept in, kept the air-conditioning blasting and rarely wore a sweater.

Along that same vein, my in-laws – other than packing for trips two weeks ahead of time, and starting each day in the middle of the night – are also atypical for their age group.

This is particularly true as it relates to their social life, which is busy and exciting and involves more movies and dinners out in the average month than my husband and I have experienced in our entire marriage.

My goal is to be half as cool as they are some day.

That said, what can I say, older people like me and I like them. I don’t mind when they call me “Mitzy” instead of Missy, I envy them for their choice of sensible shoes and give me a good piece of pound cake over tiramisu any day.

I often get invited to talk to senior groups and if I can, I always accept, even when I’m paid in mandel bread. This morning, I spoke to a men’s club gathering that was preceded by a half hour or so of business matters.

Once, I spoke to a women’s temple group in which the business matters (raffle, silent auction, tributes to past members and, of course, minutes of last meeting) took up the first three hours of the three-and-a-half-hour program.

Today, it only seemed like three hours.

“I’m sure all of you know ‘Walt,’ ” the first speaker, who we’ll call Ed, told us. “He’s around here all the time and wears a brown suit and walks stooped over?”

The membership nodded.

“Well, he died this weekend,” said Ed.

Sighs all around, as they passed a get-well card for someone else.

We were told of gallbladders removed and blood work done and weakened conditions until I vowed to check myself into the hospital for a full work-up as soon as I left.

Seamlessly, Ed segued into a regular feature known as dirty one-liners. This is a popular portion of the senior men’s club circuit. Warms them up for the woman sportswriter. It’s about this time that I try to conjur up the raunchiest lockerroom tales I can remember.

But first, there was more serious business to tend to, in this case the passage of amendments to the club by-laws.

During this part of the meeting, I seriously considered slipping out the back door for fear that it would eventually have to be broken up by police in riot gear. This made Morty Seinfeld’s re-election campaign for president of the condo board at Del Boca Vista phase III look like real life and my morning like a sitcom.

Men cursed and were shouted down and then things got really unpleasant as one member asked that the amendments be read over again.

It was about this time that a doctor was paged to help with someone else in the senior center, which provided a much-needed break in the proceedings as I silently hoped no cutting-edge medical procedures were required.

My people were out of control.

Thankfully, order was eventually resumed, I knocked ‘em dead – well, you know, not really – and I was out by 11:35, only 35 minutes past lunch hour but still a good four before dinner.

3 Responses to “My People”

  1. ZWrite

    After one year of leading weekly Current Events discussions generally attended by six to eight people at the Milwaukee Jewish Home (for the elderly), I was asked to be the featured speaker at the annual luncheon of the Jewish community’s (old) Men’s Club.

    It was my first-ever speech. There’s no word in the dictionary that describes how nervous I was.

    I spoke to about 70 people. After I was done, I asked if there were any questions. A man who regularly participated in my Current Events group raised his hand. “Young man,” he said. “I think you are very smart and I always agree with you. There’s only one problem. I didn’t hear a damn word you said.”

    And then one day the most regular member of my current events group walked into my office. “I will be dead in a week,” he said. And he was.

    Speaking to the elderly can bring you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. OK, that’s trite so I will sign out.

  2. Don

    Melissa, I just died laughing at your report of the activities of the Men’s Club yesterday. I was out of control and my wife was about to commit me to an institution when I finally stopped rolling on the floor. It was so hysterical and I’m afraid, so true. Thanks for bearing with us and many, many thanks for the terrific presentation. I’m looking forward to reading my copy of your book on Lou Piniella. Jerry Seinfeld would be proud.


  3. Frank

    Good story Melissa. Being 63 read with interest. Hearing about the ailments is the tough part. Like when young, like you, can’t help it, you start thinking is this what I have to look forward too? Stay healthy, exercise, most can be avoided. I’m finding that out now.



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