Reelin’ in the years 

Been feeling old lately. I’ll be turning 55 in March. Numbers don’t bother me, never have. Just been in a funk about myself lately. I am so self-centered that I tend to think I’m in this growing-old process alone.

Ask my ol’ lady, and she’ll tell you I’m stuck in 1975. Musically, financially and politically, I have not progressed. Mentally I am okay with that, but when I look in the mirror, I no longer see young Tommy Parrish, instead I see my Uncle Freddie, and that is not good.

I work out, I try to eat right for the most part, and I drink like a fish. Hey, the gospel according to Meatloaf is, “Don’t be sad, cause two out of three ain’t bad,” right? What can you do? Nobody’s perfect.

My problem these days physically, is that not only do I look like dog’s dirt but I feel very similar. I hurt. I get up in the morning and I ache. On my morning walk, my body sounds just like a bowl of Rice Krispies, “snap, crackle and pop”. I’m sure it is the result of being an athlete for the last 50 years, but that knowledge does nothing to ease the pain.

I hurt mentally too. Don’t feel like I’ve lived up to my potential. Professionally I’ve been driving a bus for the last 22 years, and while I enjoy the work, there is just so much mental stimulation I can derive from it. Then when I’m off-duty, rather than trying to fill this void with educational opportunities, volunteerism or some such other positive endeavor, I sit like a boob in front of that stupid tube doing 12-ounce curls.

So I am in the dumps. We’ve all been there. I’m not looking for pity; I’m just trying to understand the whys and wherefores of this phase of my life.

I went out to eat lunch today. I hardly ever do that anymore; I always eat at the house. Had some business downtown that led right into my workday, so I stopped for a bite to eat. I’m glad I did, along with nourishing my body, my mind and ego also got fed.

I first started going to this joint over 30 years ago; it’s got a good breakfast, and a great workingman’s lunch. You know the kind of place; you get a meat, three veggies and tea. Price is reasonable; food is plentiful and actually pretty good. Seniors love the place, plenty of blue-collar boys with their name on their shirts, and more than a few suits.

I probably hadn’t been in this place for five years or so. It hadn’t changed.

Had I?

The owner who inherited this restaurant from his dad had grown gray. Just like me. The waitress who served me had picked up a couple of pounds from the last time I’d seen her. Me too. Recognized a boy who used to run the streets with me sitting across the way. His running days appeared over, and I could relate.

The meal was good. I had the beef stew over rice with okra and tomatoes, steamed cabbage, mashed potatoes and gravy, a roll and cornbread. Washed it down with black coffee.

Spread my paper out, donned my glasses, and tried to read as I ate. However, my mind was wandering around the room, and I was looking and thinking and placing faces and trying to remember names, and getting out of myself and into others.

Too much gravy, too much bread, now I know why I quit coming here. The food was good; don’t get me wrong, it was good for me in more ways than one. That’s probably how it earned the name comfort food.

I’m not in it alone. I need to stop internalizing this aging process; it is happening to us all. Some are fairing better, yet many are fairing worse. Where you stand or want to stand is merely a question of choice. How you perceive yourself is not always what the reality is.

“Hey Tom how are you?” I jumped to my feet. “I’m fine, how ‘bout yourself?”

“You look great,” he said. “Thanks man,” I stammered.

I am lost; I haven’t a clue who this guy is. He and a younger man have been sitting at the next table the whole meal. I never paid them any mind.

Then this gentleman proceeds to introduce me to the young man who as it turns out is his boy. “Son, I’d like you to meet a really good guy,” he says.

I shook the kid’s hand and glanced back at his dad, my eyes traveled over his shirt, and when I saw his name embroidered there, I knew there was a God.

“Thanks, Steve,” I said.

The meal ended up costing me ten bucks with a tip. It was a bargain, considering I left there feeling like a million bucks.

E-mail Tom at tparris@bellsouth.net

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Tom Parrish

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