Dave Simpson: Merle Was Right About These Years

Columnist Dave Simpson writes: "I was 67 when my first grand daughter was born, and 69 when her little sister arrived. Suddenly, things like highchairs, stuffed toys, and a wayward pacifier found under a bed, started showing up at our house."

Dave Simpson

August 09, 20224 min read

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The elixer came along just in time.

Right when a 71-year-old guy could be forgiven for getting a little pessimistic and cynical, maybe even grouchy, along comes a puff of blessedly fresh air..

It’s enough to blow a geezer’s hat in the creek.

My wife is a retired nurse practitioner, an anthropologist, and a pretty good archaeologist. She’s got more degrees than a thermometer, from swell universities. With my lone English degree, I’ve spent the last 37 years at a dead run, trying to keep up with her. Anything I think, she thought yesterday.

And she says most of us start to fall apart between the ages of 65 and 75.

There are exceptions. But when I offered the opinion that I’ve been pretty lucky health-wise, she hooted in disbelief, and called me an “orthopedic train wreck.” That’s what I get for looking on the positive side. But, (like any husband, it’s painful to admit this), she had a point. (Ouch!)

Dry skin, aching joints, repaired rotator cuffs (port and starboard), a re-strung quadriceps muscle, three laminectomies and a fusion out back, trouble hearing in a crowded restaurant, difficulty remembering names and details that were once on the tip of my tongue, a wrestling match getting out of some chairs… It brings back the words of the great Merle Haggard when he appeared in Cheyenne not long before he died. He said for the first time his road crew included a nurse.

Shaking his head at the notion of our “golden years,” Merle said:

“Friends, we’ve been lied to.”

That said, we’re fortunate to have great facilities to handle our various and sundry maladies. The same clinic in Laramie that saved the NFL career of Josh Allen has handled all my orthopedic woes. They are wonderful. We have an excellent hospital in Cheyenne full of savvy professionals, and plenty of specialists down on the Front Range for the exotic stuff. It’s not like the old days, when my grandparents had to come to Chicago from rural Indiana to see their doctors.

I’m reading Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s book “The Real Anthony Fauci,” and it’s an indictment of our public health agencies and the pharmaceutical industry. But then I think of the amazing research that has gone into treating multiple myeloma (the disease that killed my father) and now has far extended the lives of those who have it (think Tom Brokaw), and I see another side. This thinking two things at once business can get complicated. Walk, chew gum. Walk, chew gum.

So, back to what came along just in time. I was 67 when my first grand daughter was born, and 69 when her little sister arrived. Suddenly, things like highchairs, stuffed toys, and a wayward pacifier found under a bed, started showing up at our house. Baby gates went up, cabinets secured, and an old spring-action “Wonderhorse” (fittingly named “Cheyenne”) went from the garage to the man cave.

The younger one let’s her sister do most of the talking, but last month at an ice cream shop in Gillette she took a taste from her mom’s dish and proclaimed, “MINE!” (Now there’s a concept that will serve her well in life.) The next morning she spotted a big, ugly fly on the wall and said, “FLY!” Life is full of little firsts for her, and I was thrilled the first time she butchered the word “grandpa.”

Her sister looks in awe at a cousin who is a gifted barrel racer, and for a guy who grew up watching “Spin and Marty” on the “Micky Mouse Club” every afternoon in Chicago, a grand daughter who is into rodeo is more than I could ask.

And she can yodel.

So, right when a guy could be forgiven for becoming a curmudgeonly collection of aches, pains and leg cramps, along come these two little breaths of fresh air. And you have to figure this is all about so much more than just us, like gazing at the Milky Way above your August campfire.

My older brother once said having kids (sometimes) was like “paying a nickel, and getting a quarter back.”

I heartily agree.

For grandpas, make that payoff 50 cents.

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.