My first high school crush Carla dumped me during our sophomore year. A few weeks before the break-up while we were still on summer break, I nearly maimed myself biking home from her house on my 12-speed when the brake handle became detached and lodged itself in the spokes of my front tire as I coasted down Union Street near Crescent. I’m pretty sure this is the second time I’ve blogged about the bike accident of 1990 – what can I say, I’m apparently still traumatized by either the crash, Carla breaking up with me, or both.
The reason I bring this event up again in the first place is that my buddy Chad was with me when Carla delivered the news to me by phone. I was in my bedroom using a phone that was not cordless. In other words, I couldn’t leave the room and Chad got to witness the drama firsthand. Anyway, after comprehending that the break-up was irreversible, I asked Carla what was wrong with me in my pathetic state of sorrow. Upon hearing my question, Chad began to smirk and opened the space between his thumb and index finger while placing it on his forehead. He then mouthed the words “your hairline” or something to that effect.
Back then, due to the size of my forehead and the high location of my hairline, my buddies and I were fairly certain I was going to be the first bald one of our crew. Fast forward twenty years (that’s right class of 93, our sophomore year in high school was that long ago) and I still have grass on the green without assistance either from Rogaine or Maury's wigs. Even better, I have yet to discover a gray pūb in the Chewbacca wheat field.
While I acknowledge this fight against aging and vanity is futile, there is one particular trait I earnestly look forward to acquiring as the years accumulate. It's actually a badge of honor in my opinion. Three words. Old. Man. Strength.
When I think of Old Man Strength, three people immediately come to mind: the father of William Wallace’s best friend in Braveheart whose character was named “Campbell”; Julio Franco; and my old next door neighbor in Hooksett whose true identity I will protect by simply calling him Mr. V.
Campbell (portrayed by Scottish actor James Cosmo) is a paragon of Old Man Strength. Campbell’s not as svelte or handsome as he probably was in earlier years. The beard is gray. The hairline has receded. He needs to sit down for a rest a little more frequently than he used to. But he’s still a total badass and answers the call of duty when pressed into a fight. For chrissakes, he gets his hand chopped off in one battle, then comes back to the next one with a swinging mace attached at the severed wrist. That’s the medieval version of Old Man Strength, I believe.
Julio Franco was a professional baseball player who played for something like 100 years. He retired in 2008. I know little about Julio except that he was super ripped well into his 40’s and could still probably tear Dustin Pedroia into several pieces with his bare hands. Just trust me, Julio’s an appropriate spokesperson for Old Man Strength.
As for Mr. V, he is quite possibly the best example of Old Man Strength I can conjure in my brain. First, Mr. V's had bulging biceps that have intimidated me since I was 6 years old. Second, he is a master carpenter, plumber, electrician, and builder of anything. Third, he hunts animals and eats his kills – I believe a mounted boar’s head hangs in his garage (or at least I imagine one in there) as affirmative proof of his fearlessness. Fourth, he is the nicest and sweetest guy you’d ever know. Put it this way, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, I’d definitely seek refuge at his house.
[While we’re on the topic of Mr. V, I feel the need to confess that I used to climb up onto the bumper of his silver utility work truck when it was parked and no one was looking, so that I could peak in through the back window at a Playboy centerfold taped on the back of the partition between his front seat and the rear back area. (The Internet was still a whole decade away.) Furthermore, I also apologize once and for all about the snow ball I threw at his brand new car around 1984. Once I saw Mr. V jam on the brakes and get out, I booked it into the woods and didn’t come home for a couple hours. Although I may not have known then what to call Old Man Strength, I was smart enough to understand it was a force not to be messed with. Anywho, where were we?]
Old Man Strength is almost like a consolation gift for men as they advance in years from young buck to grizzled veteran. While they may require the assistance of Lipitor, Flomax, and/or Cialis, a seasoned pro with Old Man Strength can still answer the bell and rise to the occasion when necessary. It’s a kind of phenomenon whereby this reservoir of youthful testosterone remains stored in a reserve just waiting to be tapped in case of situations that may vary from a simple “rub some dirt on it if it hurts” to an outright challenge of one’s masculinity.
He with Old Man Strength has acquired the skills to sniff out a bluff in poker. He with Old Man Strength can both drive and navigate the [station wagon/minivan] towards the destination while the rest of his family sleeps during the road trip. He with Old Man Strength can go shirtless at a family cookout without shame, even if his moobs could really use a manssiere. Perhaps most importantly, he with Old Man Strength has learned how to conserve his energy for the witty back-and-forth that precedes a fight until the very last second when he gets the first punch in and lets all of his buddies jump in to prevent the exchange of any more punches.
As for me, I still cry whenever The Notebook is on. Unopened boxes of furniture from Ikea make me shudder with fear and loathing. I watch Project Runway enthusiastically. Not only do I rarely wear a tool belt, but I’ve never changed a spark plug. Hell, I can't even grow a respectable mustache let alone a beard.
Clearly, I have a ways to go before attaining Old Man Strength status. But at least I’ve got a hairline that might be receding....