Thursday, May 20, 2010

Generations. . .

For the past few years, there has been a little Starbucks stand tucked into the front of the Meijer store where we do a lot of our grocery shopping. I will stop there once or twice a week, and since my 'usual' order is a tad idiosyncratic (venti fat-free latte; three pumps sugar-free hazelnut, two pumps sugar-free vanilla), the retiree-aged woman who often works there notices me whenever I come by, and we've struck up a friendly little banter over the years. . . In the division of labor that Jen and I have worked out in recent years, the Meijer shopping has fallen into my pile, while she handles the rest of the grocery shopping, at the farmer's market, and a couple other places. . . 8M's birthday was a few days ago - he turned eight, which is a further indication that our childbearing years are drawing to a close (or that they have already). Which brings something of a combination of sadness and relief, along with being a marker that we're drawing closer to the end of our lives than the beginning. But this really isn't supposed to be a sad or dark post. Really. . . (bear with me; these seemingly unconnected strands will all come together eventually; I think) A week or two ago, I went out on my regular Meijer run, and I took 8M with me. When you have eight kids, taking them on errands is one of the ways you can wedge in a little one-on-one time with your kids. Which, honestly, works pretty well, for the most part. Except for the days when I'm craving a little solitude, but I've mostly written that off, for the foreseeable future. And 8M is a chatterbox of the highest order (a trait passed on to him from Jen's side of the family). Sometimes I just have to say to him, "8M, my ears are getting tired; could you be quiet for a few minutes?" Anyway, 8M and I were out doing some grocery shopping together. We filled our cart with all the items on our list, and after we had finished checking out, we wandered past the Starbucks stand, and on impulse, I decided to grab a latte for the road. My coffee-lady was there, and as I approached the counter (I don't even have to state my order anymore - she's memorized it; which is one of those little 'personal touches' that makes me want to keep going back there, rather than a different Starbucks, or whatever), she smiled, and started preparing my cup. Seeing 8M with me, she grinned and asked - "Is this your grandson?" Ummm. . . no. . . actually, he's my youngest son. . . I wanted to say something about how well my boys can swim, or somesuch, but I thought better of it. . . If I think about it, it really shouldn't be terribly surprising - I'm gray enough, and there are plenty of guys even younger than me who are grandfathers. But it was the first time that particular misperception has come my way (and maybe that's the 'truer' surprise; maybe I'm younger and more virile-looking than I think I am. . .) (or, you know, maybe not. . .) ------------------------- It reminded me a little bit of the time when I was in high school, and my dad was gone for a few days, and my mom and I, for whatever reason (I can't recall), were out to dinner. We had a nice time together, and when we had finished, the waitress put the check next to my place. With the implication that she perceived us as 'a couple', rather than a mother-and-teenaged-son. Which tickled my mom no end. And that waitress got a very generous tip. . .


  1. Last summer, a salewoman in Kohl's thought College Daughter and I were sisters. But I truly think the woman was on something.

    That's a bummer on the comment for you, but I'll bet she is going to feel really awkward now everytime you stop in for a coffee!

  2. I'm wondering now what people think of me when they see me out with my kids and notice how tired I am and hey, is that some grey in my hair? Last night, I'm pretty sure I could have passed as their grandmother. At the very least, I pretty much felt like it!

  3. Good story, and interesting to think about such things. I often wonder, when I'm all dressed up in one of my softball uniforms, how old people might think I am. I'm in reasonable shape, but it's obvious, by the graying hair that shows from under my cap, as well as the very whitish sideburns and beard, that I'm not 30-something. I like to imagine that people might think I'm either a horribly out of shape 40 year old or maybe a tremendously in shape 65 year old. It usually never crosses my mind that anyone would think I am what I am - in the middle of those two, 53.

  4. Just did a post inspired by this one, giving you a credit for the inspiration.

  5. Cocotte - Coffee-lady and I are fine.

    But hey, you know, go ahead and take yer compliments where you can get 'em. . . ;)

    faDKoG - Well, you know, you're only as old as you feel, right? Wait. . . that didn't come out the way I meant it. . . ;)

    And have you been to Canada just recently? 'Cuz I noticed you've imported their spelling for 'gray'. . . ;)

    Suldog - I am truly honored, my friend. . .

    And I've known some pretty gray 35-year-olds in my day. . .

  6. Sorry, the only thing that caught my attention in this post (although I'm hoping to defer the grand-fatherly ness a while, still, or even the perception of such)..

    What the H are you thinking, with that fru-fru coffee???

    Coffee should be black, and no flavored syrupy goop, shudder shudder yuk.

    Get the flavors from the various beans and roasts, and drink it hot and all the time, winter, summer, day or night-

  7. I make it into a guessing game with people, trying to get them to figure out my true age. When I was younger, people told me I looked older. Now that I'm older, people think I'm younger. Nobody guesses my real age, so I never think much of it. I suppose my thinking will change when I hit 50, in another 15 years.

  8. Sailor - Can't we all just get along?

    I've tried, and I just can't drink my coffee black - it's just too acidic for me. Most of the time, I just have plain coffee, lightened with skim milk. But once a week (sometimes twice, if I'm feeling terribly, terribly self-indulgent), I'll grab something fancy. Besides, the Starbuck's cards are part of a fundraiser for our kids' school. . .

    Michelle - Honestly, the view from behind my own eyes hasn't changed all that much since I was in college.

    I've said elsewhere that 50 was kind-of a 'psychological hurdle' - even when I was 49, I could say I was 'in my 40s', and that didn't sound too old. But 50 is just harder to glide over like that (somebody said 50 is the New 30; whatever that means). Honestly, tho, it's just a number. I've tried to keep myself in decent shape, and there's not much I can't do that I ever could do, so I don't worry much about it. . . There are guys my age, friends of mine, who are much more 'elderly' than me. . . Maybe it's true what they say, that having a child 'late-in-life' helps keep you young. . .

    Plus, it helps to keep Jen around. She hasn't got a gray hair to her name (and her mom, who is 78, only has a couple, so that bodes well. . .). So she helps me give the appearance of being younger. Or at least, of being able to keep a 'trophy wife'. . . ;)

  9. for a variety of reasons folks have always assumed i am older than i actually am. when i was younger most of my close friends were at least 10 yrs older than i was. also i had kids at such a young age. so it didn't really bother me.

    however, i am greying at a rapid rate and refuse to color it because it's just not who i am. i understand it makes me look older. the only time it really got to me was when i was 39 and in TX for a friend's wedding. other guests kept assuming i was the mother of the 27 yr old girl sitting next to me. admittedly she has a similar complexion and face shape to me but i'd have thought...sisters. the killer though was when someone asked me about my grandchildren. i wasn't even 40 (in fact it was the weekend i turned 39). i was less than thrilled by that.

  10. Lime - Actually, I have been 'guessed older' most of my life, too. I was That Kid on my Little League team - the one the other parents were always demanding to see my birth certificate. Started shaving when I was 12, that whole bit. . .

    I was laid off my job virtually on my 40th birthday, and shortly after that, I first became noticeably gray. Coincidence?

    I admire you for embracing the gray. I think our society is crueler to women going gray than it is to men. At my 20-year class reunion (so we were all about 38), one of the women had striking thick, silver hair; I went to her and told her that I loved her silver hair, and I thought she'd kiss me right there. . . My dad's family has lots of silver hair - I can't ever remember my dad, or his sister, my aunt, having hair that was other than silver/white. . .

  11. Hi, Lime - stay the course! I, too, am trying to age gracefully, avoiding the hair dye...
    But twice over the past 10 yrs, I have been mistaken for my son's grandmother, & that REALLY smarts.
    I guess you are only as old as you feel; but a lot of days that would make me approx 64 instead of 46!

  12. Thanks for stopping by, Val!

    And what I said to Lime - I admire you for embracing the gray. . .

    See, I've always had a preference for my hair the way God gave it to me And, as it turns out, the way He takes it away. . . ;)

    Maybe you and I should form a club for falsely-accused grandparents. . .