The Old Man and The Thirty-Year-Old Girl - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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The Old Man and The Thirty-Year-Old Girl

Oct 07, 2016

The Old Man and The Thirty-Year-Old Girl 

He walked up to the girl reading on the park bench. It was getting dark, but the scowl on his face was clear as day...looked like it had been there all day. He had an umbrella, one of those tall, spindly, menacing black ones...relics of a past generation...his generation. She jumped as, with a clang, he brought the umbrella down on the empty bench space next to her.

'Go now. The park is closing. You should not be here alone. Girls have no sense anymore. Get moving now.' He muttered, barely audibly, the umbrella handle gently poking the girl as though trying to sweep her off the bench.

'You've really gone crazy, old man.' She shot him a pitiful look, and since the park would close in five minutes and it was too dark to read anyway, gathered her bag and book and walked off.

He continued his round, making sure the park was clear. Grumbling, he picked up the trash thoughtless young people had left behind. No decency left anymore. No wonder he had to go around checking every night. And they pitied him... Ha!

It wasn't his job really, but he felt it was his duty to keep the park in front of his house clean and decent. Children come there to play after all... The city didn't care at all. Sometimes the municipality wala didn't even come on time to lock the gates. And those young people hiding in their dark corners doing unspeakable things...

Young people are the future, they said. We don't have enough jobs for younger people so we must retire the older ones. 'Won't it be nice to have some free time?' they asked cheerfully.

Free time? When had he ever wanted free time? All he wanted was to work. And he was a good, solid, reliable worker. But no, apparently thirty-year olds with odd beards (get a razor!) and T-shirts (too lazy to button up a shirt?) who leave a trail of garbage behind their lazy posteriors are going to change the world.

They had meant it as a rhetorical question. They were really just saying goodbye.

It wasn't supposed to be like this...

He stared up at the ceiling where the fan wasn't rattling in lazy circles. It hadn't done so in months. His wife kept asking him to fix it...he should have done it...he'll get to it tomorrow. He can't very well climb a ladder and play with wires after dark.

It wasn't supposed to be like this...

But that's okay. He has lots to do. When he woke up this morning at 5.45, as he usually does (without an alarm...he never understood the concept of an just wake up when you need to wake up...that's how they did it in his time), and went straight into his neighbourhood inspection. Keeping the streets in order. That was his job as it was every citizen's. As always, he carried with him his beloved notepad, leaving notes under windshields, 'This is a no-parking zone. Next time we will tow.' And slipping notes under doorways, 'You cannot leave your garbage in the street all night. If garbage is left here before 8am I will empty it on top of your car.'

Kids nowadays. Thinking they can get away with anything. The world is ours, they say. We are young, they laugh. Forty is the new thirty. What rubbish. Forty is forty and thirty is thirty. And as he could testify to quite well, sixty is unfortunately sixty.

But what comes after sixty? What comes for him now? Must he potter about the lonely house, jobless, haranguing the neighbourhood citizens' association to re-instate him as secretary, complaining to a wife who died six months ago, staring at a lifeless ceiling fan wishing it would turn, as though the turning would bring her back...until they come and take him away in a white van and put him in an institution?

It's not right to be jobless. It feels wrong. How can people be planning their retirements and whatnot all the time. Do they really want to be out of work? He just doesn't get it...

The girl he'd shoo'ed away from the park, for instance. Thirty years old, as all the oddest people tend to be. She lived two doors down from him. His wife liked her very much. She would take her food sometimes, thinking she would like a home-cooked meal, living so far away from her family. She's so brave and charming. What a wonderful girl. Moving to the big city for work. But what does she do, he'd ask? She's a writer, I told you. Yes, but who does she write for? The Times of India? Does she write reports for some company? Does she write books? Poems? What? She's a freelancer, I told you.

Aargh, what does that mean? He'd get grumpy. She really doesn't have a job, does she? His wife would just scold him then and say, let it be. What's it to you? He'd always vent his angry-old-man tirades at her. And she always listened without complaint. So when she told him to shut up, he did...

Except now, he couldn't let it be. The word 'freelancer' had hung upside down in the cave of his mind since he had been laid off. Just a word for thirty-year olds with whole lives ahead of them?

Or could it be, for him, a new possibility? Even now? Is there life after sixty? Is there dignity after the golden (or just gold-painted really) handshake? Was there usefulness after widowhood?

Carefully, he picked out a handful of the wildflowers his wife grew on their windowsill and tied them up with the tie from his bread packet... He straightened his shirt, brushed back his hair, and walked two doors down to her house with his peace offering. He needed a thirty-year old guide him in his new life in this new world.

PS: We know there is no part of your life when you don't want to be working. Work gives us invigorates makes us feel useful. It's not just about money...although it certainly gives us that as well. What kind of life would you live if you could do work you love, at any age, even in retirement? That's what we show you in our Wealth Builders Club. If you haven't yet checked it out, do so now. A new life awaits you... Click here.

Image Source: Jose Murillo/


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2 Responses to "The Old Man and The Thirty-Year-Old Girl"


08 Oct, 2016

You connect to the discernible reader very well. This does not come without empathy for the old. A very subtle and sensitive way of conveying the inevitable. Love to read your writings.

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07 Oct, 2016

Anisa : Poignant little story here. This hits a chord. I'll be fifty in a little over two years and its slowly creeping in - this propensity to pause like hell before doing even the most mundane tasks - even brushing teeth, the odd jobs around the house. Quite frightening and depressing at the same time. Thanks for your sensitivity in writing this.

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