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James R. Stout

Eddie Haskell, The Panther, and The Timex Man

            Let’s face it. We’ve all done something like this. Made a joke about getting old. Perhaps we’ll use a phrase like, “Getting old isn’t for sissies”. The truth is we don’t pay it much attention until we get to a certain point. Oh, I remember thinking that I was “getting old” when I turned 50. But I still did anything that I pretty much wanted to do. No real limitations, physically speaking. No real pain like the kind that comes with arthritis and other conditions associated with being “old”. If we are fortunate, then we get old. But there’s no set rule or rules about when that happens. I’ve known people who were old in their 50’s and others who time didn’t seem to touch. I have an aunt who is 102 years-old and sharp as a tack. She doesn’t use a walker or cane and it makes me feel like a wimp. Yet, I have another aunt who is currently 83 and is now in hospice care. Chances are she won’t see her 84th birthday in July. She is in great pain, suffering from pneumonia, COPD, and some other things. She is bedridden.

            I kind of look at getting old as being stalked by a panther. We don’t pay the panther any mind for some time, but then one day the panther jumps on your back and sinks its claws in good. You pay mind to that panther at that point and in fact, it’s about all that you think about. I’ll turn 65 in three months. But I’ve been feeling the hot breath of that panther on my neck. Who knows, maybe I’ll keep the critter at bay for a decade or two. But you just don’t know. Yesterday Ken Osmond, otherwise known to the world as Eddie Haskell, passed away. According to a statement released by his sons he was 76 (would have been 77 in a month) and died from complications related to COPD and peripheral artery disease. Those two things are very much associated with being old. For my generation, he will always be the shifty character that he portrayed on “Leave It To Beaver”. I think we all knew someone in our lives that reminded us of Eddie Haskell. One thing is for sure. Eddie had a great friend in Wally Cleaver. I was saddened at Ken’s passing because it was yet another reminder of my generation getting old.

            When I was a child, I thought my parents were old then. That’s pretty much what we all think. The truth is there are memories that I have of my mother when I was 4 or 5 years-old and she was only 30 years-old at the time. 30 is not old in anyone’s book except when you’re 4 or 5. I witnessed both of my parents grow old. From their 30’s to their 80’s and 90’s. We all thought my father would die soon back in 1976 when he had a heart-attack and then bypass surgery. He was 53. He also managed to live another 40 years. I used to joke with him during those years by calling him “The Timex Man”. He took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’. I watched as he went through a myriad of ailments as he grew old. The same was true for my mother. She had always loved working in the flower bed. Growing roses or other flowers was a passion in her life. She LOVED doing yard work. When my grandmother died in 1989 my mother turned 60 shortly thereafter. She still got out in the yard for a couple of years after that, but then things started to go wrong. By the time she was 73 years-old she had to have a knee replaced and it never was right again. She had a hip worked on that caused her pain for the remainder of her life. She spent the last 15 years of her life having to use a walker to get around. I’m pretty darned sure she could feel the panther’s claws every day of those years.

            If you’re under 50, then you probably haven’t noticed the panther stalking you. But rest assured, he is there, and he’s got his eyes on you. Another kind of “Hungry Eyes” than the kind that Eric Carmen sang about back in 1987. When I finish writing this blog entry I’m going to go out and complete the yard work that I started yesterday. I mowed yesterday, but I need to weed eat and do some other work. I’ll be needing a nap in about 4 hours. I don’t get around like I did a mere 2 years ago. The panther’s breath is on my neck and you know what? There’s not a thing I can do about it. To those of you my age or older who haven’t noticed the panther yet, then you need to thank God for that. I don’t know, maybe I’ll outlive a lot of people in much better shape than I am today. It remains to be seen. There’s a verse in the Bible that I think about at times like these. It’s found in 2 Corinthians 12:7. The apostle Paul says, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh (some translations say my side), a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” It has been debated for centuries whether or not the thorn in his side was a physical ailment or perhaps a euphemism for a sin that he fought daily. I tend to lean towards it having been a physical ailment. I have dealt with such a situation for more than 20 years now and it will likely be the root cause of my demise one day. That’s just the way it is. I’m not at all a fatalist. I’m a positive kind of guy. Oh, sure, I get down sometimes from fighting these ailments and perhaps more so from witnessing what America has become, but the truth is I know that this life is a gift, that I love it, and that I will one day be in the presence of God, feeling no pain or anguish such as we experience in our earthly life. In the meantime, I get to love and be loved by my grandchildren and children and a plethora of friends. That kind of takes the claws and teeth out of that old panther. Meow.

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