Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why Old Men Are Grumpy

Tom's last blog. Thank you all for listening and commenting. 

Louise tells me often—I want to say several times a day or week—that I’m grumpy. I don’t know that I’m being grumpy. Then out of the blue, she says, “Why are you so grumpy?”

This comes as a complete shock to me, because I’ve worked on being nice, and sometimes, just at the moment when I think I’m the nicest, she says, "You're a grumpy old man." or, “You sound nasty,” or, “You scowl all the time,” or, “You sit in the corner and don’t talk.” I do not hold this against Louise. This is not a rant against Louise or any other woman, who is living with a grumpy old man. But I’ve been thinking about it. If I am grumpy, even if I don’t know it, why am I grumpy?

My first thought goes to a line in the movie, Moonstruck. Everyone who has seen Moonstruck, raise your hand. Almost unanimous? So the father in the family, a grumpy old man, is having a fling with a well-powdered woman, and his wife, played by Olympia Dukakis (one sexy woman), knows this affair is going on. She asks her daughter’s fiancé (or nearly ex-fiancé) why men are unfaithful. And he says, “Because they fear death.”

And Dukakis, says, “That’s it. That’s it.”

This raises a question that I must ask myself. Do I fear death? I’m not having an affair, but am I grumpy, because I fear death? I want to hear from women who live with or have lived with a man for one or sixty years. Two questions: 1) is your man grumpy? And 2) does he fear death?

First of all, the most religious of you might say, “My husband has a firm and abiding testimony of the resurrection. He does not fear death.” To which I must ask, “Is he grumpy?” And the answer, almost inevitably, is, “Well, yes.”

So is this grumpiness rooted in our biology, our lack of faith, or some other cause? I can only speak for myself.  Do I fear death? Well, yes I do. I think about death a lot. I don’t think it has to do with lack of faith. Well, maybe it does. I went to the hospital once, thinking I was having a heart attack. The nurse laid me on the gurney and put a nitroglycerin lozenge under my tongue. Long and short of the story: it stopped my heart. If Louise hadn’t been sitting there and run for help, my heart would still be stopped. The nurse, she said, pounded my arm and yelled at me in a voice loud enough to wake the dead, “Mr. Plummer.”

When I had returned to coherence, she said, “Did you see Jesus?”

What I saw was nothingness. Nothing at all. Another friend who had a similar experience could only say, “Pitch black.”

So yes, I have some concerns about death. To me, every living person is here against all odds. If we were created by a loving God, why were we created and not some other piece of dirt? If we evolved, how many odds (a ttillion to one?) did we have to beat to get here? So now that I’m here, I’m not in the mood to leave.

But fearing death is not my constant obsession, and I’m still grumpy, I guess. I’m told. So why else? Here’s a little list to curtail this rambling:
  1.   I’m not as functional as I once was.
  2.  I’m mad that I’m not as functional as I once was. If you don't understand this, thank your lucky stars.
  3.  I don’t hear as well. I teach a couple of classes at Utah Valley University, and some of the students speak softly. And I yell, “I can’t hear you. The old man is deaf.” The family gets together and talks. Blah blah blah. 
  4. The world has turned over to young people. And they’re not as smart as I am.
  5. The music of my youth is gone. Who listens to “Rock Around the Clock” now? Ke$ha Schme$ha.
  6. The dancing of my youth is gone. Young people don’t know how to snuggle up like we used to, pressing ourselves into each other’s bodies, like squirrels in a nest. Now they dance several feet apart. Where have all the hormones gone?
  7. The answer is, the hormones have all gone to the media. I have nothing against sex. But I would like to see something else when I go to a movie. Or at least understand what they're doing. 
  8. I don’t have enough money.
  9.  I go to the doctor every three months. He says, “So far, so good.” What the hell does that mean?
  10. When my sons call on the phone they say, “Hi Dad. Is Mom there?”

So am I grumpy? Well damn straight I am.


  1. To answer your two questions:
    1. Yes, he is grumpy. Just a few days I chastised him at the office supply store for being snappish at the copy counter. He was surprised when I asked him what his problem was. He didn't know he sounded impatient and kind of like an ass. He is also terrible at drive thru's . He can't order food in a pleasant way to save his life. He truly is baffled as to why this is so hard for him to accomplish.
    2. Yes. We are both in our mid 40's but feel much older than our years. We are tired and worn out from life. We talk about being dead and wonder what that will be like for whichever of us goes first. We have an idea from watching others what is like for the remaining spouse and that doesn't look like fun, either. We really hope we die of old age in our sleep, together. The only thing we enjoy about life is each other. We tolerate our grown children and hope someday they will finish college and get out of our house. We are shocked at how many of our friends grieve when their kids leave for good. We don't understand that at all. When they were teenagers we managed to arrange summer camps and family visits so that they would all be gone for a week or two at the same time. It was heavenly. Rob and I came home from work everyday, closed all the curtains and took off our clothes. We didn't know we were nudist at heart until we had twenty plus years of being hyperviligent about our bodies so as not to traumatize the children.
    We sit in church and respectfully listen as the next life is plotted out on the chalkboard and we nod in affirmation when the class is asked if we want to go the highest degree of glory. But in car on the way home we agree we really don't care where end up in the next life as long as we are together. Shhhh.....don't tell the children. They think we are looking forward to having FHE every night in the eternities. Not so much.

  2. 1. He is not grumpy (he's a born optimist) but he looks like he's about to kill someone. He's also tall, so the scowl on his face makes him quite intimidating. People think he's grumpy, so the effect is the same. This is an impediment at church and with family but very, very helpful at the DMV or trying to get a table at a restaurant. 2. He fears death. But he has articulated this as a fear of the cessation of life. That is different, I think.

    Also, we love each other deeply. He worries a lot about whether he has taken good care of me. I think that makes him afraid to die. As long as we are both alive, he has a chance to keep taking care of me and perhaps to correct past neglect or inattention. Once we're dead his chances to fix his mistakes are over and I think that is what really worries him.

  3. LOVE IT! #9 is priceless. If you don't let Tom post again Louise, then I'm voting he start his own blog called Grumpy Old Birds.

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  5. The painting, the photography, the writing, the teaching, etc.. I wish I was 'not' as functional as you, Tom. Love your comments.... Don't stop, please!

  6. I was just talking about my fear of death tonight. I'm grumpy, too.
    I love the gurney/nitroglycerin/oblivion scene. And I'm glad your heart is not stopped.
    Ke$sha Schme$ha indeedy.

  7. Moonstruck! "BRING ME THE BIG KNIFE!"

  8. Great Tom! When you start your own blog let me know!
    My dad is now in the grumpy old man phase. Before he used to joke and pretend he was bring a grumpy old man- now he is the rightful owner. I think it's frustration - he thinks he's right.

  9. My husband can be grumpy and he fears death more than me. I don't think it has much to do with faith or fear of dying specifically, but more so lack of control. Death cannot be controlled. Faith (verb) is the act of letting go of control. I think men fear losing control and affairs, grumpiness (being on the defensive), road rage, teenage rebellion, etc. are ways they can assert control.

    I too am glad your heart is still going!

    I also love your description of dancing in #6 :)

  10. You two, you two are my role models for aging gracefully and I hope you can take that in the very best light. I'm new to The Chattering Crow but now I'm devoted.

    My husband of 3 years tends toward grumpy and since he's only 45 I'm a bit worried. I think reason #4 best applies but I'll ask him if he's grumpy because he fears death. I don't want to die but I don't at all fear death (says the 37-year-old...).