Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Don't want to be "sir," but "Opa" sounds good

       It happens often now, whether I'm on a walk, or in a store, or around the apartments, or ... just anywhere.
       "Hello, sir." "Have a nice day, sir." "Can I help you, sir?" "How are you, sir?" "Would you like to sample this, sir?" "Sir, you're not supposed to sample everything."
       They address me as "sir." Didn't use to happen -- ever. But about 20 years ago ... yes, sir. (But I never was "Sir Knight." Just a joke for my Woodlawn friends.)
       A sign of respect? I don't think so. A sign of old age, in my view.
       I don't mind aging because (1) it's nice to be here and (2) what are you going to do about it? But being referred to as sir often feels uncomfortable for me.
       However, when someone refers to me as "Mr. Van Thyn," honestly, the first thing I always think is "no, that's my Dad." I have told people who contacted me on Facebook for help with sports projects and used Mr. Van Thyn to please call me Nico.
       But I don't mind being Opa Nico. Four little people, and their parents, call me that. Dad was Opa Louis, and so being another Opa is just fine.
Bea and the YMCA yoga
instructor, Miss Betty, discuss
what's about to happen in class.
       So about aging, being a senior citizen ... it is a mind-set, and it has its advantages. 
       Part of the mind-set is accepting the "sir" tag. My longtime roommate has her view of it.
       "I want to be called ma'am," she told me when I told her what this blog subject was going to be. "It's a title I've earned that shows respect and appreciation for the miles I've traveled and the years, and it allows me my pride and dignity.
      "It's a title of respect, and so is 'sir.' "
       (Guess she told me.)  
       Some of my very good and longtime friends my age are still working, and more power to them. But among the advantages this senior citizen finds is that it's nice to be retired (don't miss working or the newspaper grind, but I do miss the newspaper people).

        Another advantage: Any early evening we can walk down the block to the nearby IHOP and get the 2-for-1 price on the plus-55 dinner specials (with the two-drink minimum ... IHOP drinks, OK).
        Here is one of the keys to our lives these days: We don't get bored. We try to stay busy.
        That means doing laundry and cleaning the apartment, grocery shopping, errands and -- daily -- exercising. More on that in a moment.
        There's not much television during the day, only the nightly news most days and then maybe a show or two that's recorded. I don't watch as much sports events as you might think; only when Bea is not subjected to them (unless it's the Dallas Mavericks). The exception this time of year is Saturdays when there is far too much college football than I can absorb. Three games in a row, that's a chore.
        We attend jazz and piano concerts, book-club meetings, author appearances; we do computer time (hence, writing a blog piece or two); we read a lot (books and computer/phone time); and Bea these days is being creative in her newly found advanced coloring books. 
My membership cards: They work even
though the last name is one word instead of two.
        The daily walks are routine for me; it's the rare day when I don't go. This is not only exercise, it is a time to reflect and think, dodge traffic -- and compose my blogs mentally.      
        Three regular stops/events: (1) We are now members of AARP (which used to be the American Association of Retired Persons, but now is just AARP); (2) the Fort Worth library; and (3) the Fort Worth Central YMCA.

        The Fort Worth Southwest chapter of AARP has monthly meetings, with what we think are interesting guest speakers, and occasional outings, such as a Dallas museum visit last month. I would say we are among the youngest members of the chapter; at least, I'd like to say that.
         There are two library locations we like: Southwest, which is pretty close to the closest Barnes & Noble book store we frequent, and the Central Library -- site of the jazz and piano concerts and convenient to the downtown YMCA. Because I stopped reading the daily newspaper, I have read more books in the past couple of years than in 20 previous years combined).
         About the YMCA: It is practically our second home now. Funny thing, the Central YMCA is a long fly ball from the building (the former Fort Worth Star-Telegram building) where I worked for nine-plus years; I never once went into the YMCA building.
         Now it's a three- or four-days-a-week routine for yoga and stretching classes. Yes, you read that right -- I am now Yoga Man.
         OK, I'm not exactly an expert or an avid practitioner. It's not that difficult, but it's not easy, either. The stretching classes are a little more of a test.
         Bea has been doing yoga for years and while I began my YMCA experience by shooting baskets in the gym (first time I'd done that in a lot of years and I can still fire up shots, not that I make a bunch), I popped into one of Bea's yoga sessions one day ... and stayed.
         We are in moderately good shape physically -- Bea works at it more diligently than I do -- and we're much better than we were. The stretching classes have helped and the evidence came on our recent round trip to see the daughter, son-in-law and the grandkids in Knoxville, Tenn.
         That's 15-16 hours of driving one way -- depending on how long the stops are -- and we spread it over two days, with more frequent breaks than before. It's tiring always, but this time neither of us was as physically sore as we had been on previous trips.
         Driving is one area where we are giving in. To be honest, I don't enjoy it much any more. Never have been a "great" driver, but I'm more unsettled and leery now, and driving in the busy Fort Worth or Dallas traffic or at night is problematic. I look to give up driving sooner rather than later, unlike my parents.
         (Just an aside: The hardest thing about getting to our age -- and I have written this before -- is losing our friends, people who had a part in our lives. This year, for instance, those from Shreveport-Bossier who have died include Billy Wiggins, Billy Laird, Mimi Hussey, Larry Wiseman, Phillip Williams and C.O. Brocato, and just in the past couple of weeks, the 1965-69 Louisiana Tech football teams lost center Johnny Harper and defensive end Tommy Dunbar. So we think of our mortality and we appreciate the gift of life.)
        Back to the Y-M-C-A (don't you just love that classic?). Our memberships came with our Medicare Advantage plan, giving us access to SilverSneakers Yoga and Prime Time Stretch programs, and to the monthly Bingo luncheons.
        Either way -- SilverSneakers, Prime Time -- it means senior citizens. It means old.
        That's us. But it's OK. It's a mind-set. Yes, sir.


  1. Oh, no. Such a shock to hear about Johnny Harper and Tommy Dunbar. Haven't seen either in many years, but I sure wanted to know they were still there.

  2. From Bud Dean: Getting old is not for sissies.

  3. From Casey Baker: I've always enjoyed being called Mr. As Bea said, it is a term of respect that I believe I deserve. What I do not enjoy is waitresses or others who might be young enough to be my granddaughter calling me "honey, baby or darling."

  4. From Kirby Ramsey: Thanks for the senior insights. You cannot go wrong with exercise done the right way and staying in touch with family and friends. Our beloved dogs have been an additional joy since retiring. Fantastic canines have blessed our home over the years.

  5. From Dick Hicks: Great article. Maybe this will help ease your pain: My daughter, Julie, while modeling in Miami met a nice gentleman from Canada. When she asked me to come meet him, I knew one thing -- he had manners and respect if he was "courting" my daughter. She introduced me to him and he said, "How are you, SIR, it's a pleasure to finally meet you." I said, "Matt, it's a pleasure to meet you, too." After14 years of marriage they are still living in Mississauga (Toronto suburb). To this day when I call their home or their business, he always says, "Hello, SIR, how are you?" I thought for many years he just didn't want to say my name -- Dick. I learned this past weekend, while tailgating at the LSU-Florida game, from a group from Canadians that be called SIR is the ultimate in respect. Now I don't feel as bad.

  6. From Elsa Van Thyn: Read your blog. You will always be my OLDER brother.