I was surprised today at Wal-Mart. That in and of itself is not unusual. There are many surprising sights at our local store. However, on this day when purchasing alcohol, the cash register scrolled the question to the cashier: Is your customer over forty? Without even a subtle glance back or asking for ID , my very polite clerk nonchalantly punched in an affirmative code and rang up the sale.
It hit me right in the solar plexus. Yup. I am obviously above the middle age marker. No questions needed. I experienced a sudden flashback. My seven year old son once wrote me a birthday card which referred to me as an “old denture”. We had a good laugh. It was pretty funny at the time. Now? I still don’t really consider myself an “old denture” but I am getting there.
I understood why the question was asked. I distinctly remember how irate my father was when at age 70 a cashier at a local drugstore refused to sell him cigarettes because he did not have his license on him. “Look at me,” he said, “Do I look underage to you?” The facts did not change. Without his ID he could not make the purchase. Wal-Mart is avoiding that scenario, employing a subtler method to roll back the number of identification inspections at the register. Rolling back is what they do after all.
Time however keeps rolling forward.
Funny enough, the son who first coined the term “old denture” has hit a few milestones this week. He signed a lease to a very nice apartment in another state today. He takes the first real steps in his professional career this Monday. He has grown into an amazing human being, a caring and accomplished man that I am very proud to call my son. Our ages are thirty years apart.
Thirty years ago I would definitely have been asked for ID when making an alcoholic purchase. Ironically, I don’t think I would have appreciated it. Back then I liked thinking of myself as adult, obviously mature. I might have rolled my eyes when reaching for my license, aggravated that they really needed to ask. I wouldn’t have been flattered. Some things you only learn to appreciate later on in life.
Today I am grateful. I can still laugh at the idea of being old while becoming it. I know and like myself as I am. I definitely would not trade the years to have my youth return. Yes, I have some grey hair, a few wrinkles and gravity is making itself known. So what? Those intervening years between being carded and becoming a “denture” were the best years of my life to date, a time of joy in raising my family. We have had tremendous adventures, our share of stress and sorrow, and infinite beautiful moments together. I am so blessed to have lived a life full of love and laughter. My age is a testament to those shared years, the time invested in growing four beautiful sons. That time is when I grew into myself, refined my values and learned to appreciate the gifts I have been given. I am no longer a spring chicken. I am a plump white hen in the rafters, contentedly surveying the barnyard.
Life is cyclical as my sons will one day grasp. Today’s experience was simply a reminder. Soon I really will be an “old denture”. That’s okay with me. It makes checking out at Wal-Mart that much quicker.