October 11, 2006

The Upside of Being An Old Fart

I read an article in a 6 month old Newsweek today as I ate my lunch about how black women doctors have a hard time being taken seriously as doctors. There were exapmles of patients asking for the real doctor or even refusing treatment unless it was from a white guy in a white coat. Pretty sad in many ways until the last example was of an 80-something year old man who stared at the doctor interviewed while she did something with his IV. She thought it was something bad until he said, "It must have been hard. Black. And a woman."

His insight and ability to be at peace with himself and not internalize all the crappy prejudices floating about (or let them go as he matured and became less insecure with himself) was pretty awesome. Moreover, it's not entirely rare in my experince of old farts.

Now, that's not saying there aren't some crotchety ass fools who become absolute monsters as their fear of the impending Reaper grows exponentially with every cough or dizzy spell. They exist, too. And boy do I hate those mean fuckers, but the old guys who can laugh at their youthful indiscretions and admit they were wrong once upon a time- they kinda get me all choked up.

Those are the guys my mother grew up with. They'd sit around the cracker barrel playing dice or checkers and drink warm Coca-Cola or Grape Nehi from a bottle and poke fun at one another. They were the guys you knew would have a bottle of hooch hidden somewhere from the missus or would be in constant trouble for missing church to go fishing. They had learned "the secret" somewhere along the way and werent assholes about sharing it.

They just didn't give a shit about what anyone else thought about them. And that very act of relinquishing all need for external validation freed them up to experinence empathy and compassion for those around them. For the old farts, the phrase "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" means something. They don't give two shits about skin color of the doctor, but they do wonder how tough it must have been for her to get there and give her the respect she deserves for her accomplishment and apparent character.

That's pretty damn nice. And more than a slight bit zen.

I hope I can be like that one day, but I suspect I will be the crotchety ass fool for no other reason than bitching can be fun and I'm damn good at it.


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