Humor Therapy — Days Gone Bye-Bye

Circa 2007

I want to be young again.

Adulthood has stolen my health. Parenting has imbedded psychological scars. Monthly bills now seem to come weekly. And work has cut into my playtime, big time.

I often reflect on my youth while staring at a clump of my fallen hair that is clogging the shower drain. Where did it all go? One day I was driving to the beach with rowdy friends, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the next day I was driving to Home Depot to get a toilet plunger, listening to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Somewhere along the way, I swapped the Doobie Brothers for the Mills Brothers. My father used to make this annoyed look of pain when he came in my room and heard my music. Now my kids see that same face.

At some point, I went from cartoons to nightly news. It’s strange. When did an earthquake in Indonesia become more important than the adventures of Huckleberry Hound? As a boy, my only cares were cleaning my room once a month, finding someone’s homework to copy and avoiding the schoolyard bully (she was a monster). Now I worry about interest rates, North Korean missiles, the stock market, acid reflux and whether my 15-year-old daughter will surprise me on Thanksgiving by announcing that she’s pregnant.

It was never like this when I was a kid. Back then, I would get up, wolf down a bowl of Captain Crunch, dart outside and ride my bike around until something distracted me. It might be a neighborhood football game, the chance to build a fort or the whim to crawl down into a sewer. I never missed an opportunity to dive into pure mischief. So never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I’d be the man standing on someone’s front porch, holding a child by the collar, telling some parent his kid just hit my car with a snowball. Somehow I’ve gone from Dennis The Menace to Mr. Wilson.

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That’s another thing: My ears hurt when I hear someone call me “Mister.” I want to yell: “Hey punk, I was you once. I had those muscles, too—and that… that… hair on your head!” I know I’m old, but why rub BenGay into my wounds by calling me “Mister”? Believe me, I would challenge any kid to a push-up contest—as long as there are emergency technicians standing by with a working defibrillator.

I want to spend one day, just one day, making prank phone calls. I want to sit in the sun and burn bugs with a magnifying glass. I want to stay out until four in the morning and sleep until noon, and then have my mom make me a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. Speaking of food, I start a diet next week. (I actually started last week, but eating has a crazy way of throwing me off track). When I was a kid my diet was Pop Tarts, cheeseburgers and bubble gum. Incidentally, there’s nothing like a root-canal bill to get you off sweets.

As a child, I grew out of clothes by getting taller. Now I grow out of clothes by getting wider. When I sit around the house, I get yelled at by my wife to fix the screen door or by my daughter to drop her off at the mall. I long for those days when only my mom would yell at me.

Every time I look in the mirror, I see sad, beaten eyes. This wrinkle wasn’t present last year—I wonder which of my kids chiseled that on my forehead. The latest one appeared after Billy totaled the car.

Tell me, why does it seem the majority of my days are spent turning off lights in vacant rooms, adjusting the thermostat and screaming at the kids, “Turn that racket off! Go outside and play!”? (Or the infamous, “Clean up that mess!”)

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Wow, that marriage-and-family brochure sure looked good before the wedding. Everyone was smiling and there was even a cute yellow Lab in the picture.

I don’t want to accept old age. After all, The Rolling Stones don’t—even though they should. It’s sad to watch “Brown Sugar” being performed by a group of senior citizens. Their creaking bones sound better than they do. Instead of “Under My Thumb,” maybe the lyrics should be changed to “Over The Hill.” Rolling Stones? I’m facing kidney stones. But I digress. Where was I? I forget, which is a sign of… um… something.

I used to pop a few pills in college. Now it’s no longer for fun—I really need them. While kids are smoking weed, I’m busy in the front yard pulling some. What I wouldn’t give to go to a frat party again, but I don’t think I could stay awake for the tapping of the keg. They’d have to pledge-paddle me to wake up. Tap a keg? More like tap a pacemaker.

I used to be able to drink all night and then work a full day on an hour of sleep. Now I no longer have it in me. After one drink, stick a fork in me because I’m throwing up. I feel more at home with the bathroom grab bar than the neighborhood bar. Instead of light beer, I’m into that no-calorie, eight-glasses-a-day water routine. It would be so nice to get carded again—the only places that look at my license now are the stores where I’m using my credit card to dig deeper into debt. I look at my statement every month and notice I’ve purchased a lot of things, but none of them seem to be for me (except maybe my regular Brazilian bikini wax).

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With age, sleeping has passed sex on my priority list. This must be one of God’s jokes, after he made fooling around such a driving force in my twenties. Back then I was willing to get fired from my job if I had the slightest chance of getting laid. (No, I never got fired.) I don’t know how sleep moved to the top of the list. Maybe one night I was making love to my wife and fell asleep. I think the turning point was that it didn’t bother either of us. Who wants sleep over sex? Me and my pot-bellied body, that’s who. At my age, I’m glad I’m married, because if I weren’t and I saw a woman I wanted to sleep with, I’m afraid I would really just want to sleep with her.

My grandmother used to say, “Life goes by so fast,” but I never believed her. (She lost credibility with me when she told me the moon landing was actually staged by Elvis.) All I know is, I no longer have milkshakes, pop pimples on my face or go to Grateful Dead concerts. Now my mornings begin with a healthy broccoli-andegg shake, then I spend hours looking in the mirror and praying a zit will replace a deep facial line, grateful I’m not dead.

When the highlight of your week is an evening walk around the neighborhood, you’ve got problems. When you can’t wait to dive into that book at night, you’re knocking on death’s door, Baby. I swore I’d never get old, but now I can’t even swear, because I’m a responsible, tired, boring adult who envies and despises the youth of today.

Maybe things will be better when I hit 40.

by Jeff Charlebois

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