Old men will dream dreams

By Ralph Thomas


It seems with increasing frequency I am exposed to what I call age-related dreaming. To put it more mildly, these are ideas and experiences I would have most likely missed if I hadn’t lived more than 83 years. Some of it is enlightening and important but most of it is made up of dreams that old men dream. In the Bible, Joel 2:28, we are told old men dream dreams and young men see visions. I had never given these words of wisdom much thought until recently.

Several years ago Henry County built a senior citizens center one mile from our home. SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) and I talked about attending the center’s activities, but I told her I didn’t want to be around old people. This is the reason we chose not to move to a senior living community. I could imagine the morning topic at the breakfast table ... “Well, dear, did you hear the sirens last night? Do you suppose it was Mr. Jones or Mrs. Haverty this time?” As most of my friends have already ridden the siren-mobile, I prefer to wake up without reminders of my rapid approach to my own ride.

During a casual conversation at the local library with a man whom I guessed to be close to my age, I mentioned that I missed fellowshipping with other such men. He suggested I try the local Senior Citizen Center in Locust Grove. After much thought I suggested to SWMBO that we ought to give it a try.

Our first visit was an eye-opener. I expected a lot of old people there for breakfast, but was stunned at the large round table occupied by men somewhat near my age. I asked one of the center employees why the men and women were segregated from each other. She replied that they used to sit at the same tables ... until the women kicked them out. The men were too loud and boisterous for the women’s usual subjects of knitting, recipes, grandchildren and arthritis.

I was welcomed to an empty chair at the boisterous table and quickly understood why they were kicked out of the women’s table. No subject was unacceptable, but there was an unspoken rule limiting locker-room talk. Of course this rule was open to interpretation, depending on the subject. This is where I finally understood the old men dream dreams part of the scripture. Another interpretation could well be, can you top this?

It was hilarious to listen to the recounting of the trip from south to north. It began with an infected toe nail then moved north, stopping at knees, hemorrhoids, colon, gall bladder, heart and carotid artery, while taking some side trips to pins and screws in hands, arms and fingers. Finally, reaching the brain, we discovered there wasn’t much to talk about. If one member had 50 chickens another had 100 chickens, if one member’s tree was 100 feet tall, another member’s tree was 150 feet tall. Now, I’m not saying that any of the above is not true, but Joel predicted, old men would dream dreams. In spite of the ‘can you top this’ challenges to any subject brought up, never once did I detect a moment of irritability at being challenged. It didn’t take but a few visits for me to learn I was in my element. Of course, I had to go all out to keep up with the table veterans.

I quickly learned I was among a group of men who, as I had, survived the rigors of life ... work, child-raising, retirement, occasional medical issues and, in some cases, the loss of a spouse. Because we each were coming to the end of the road, our attitudes were changing ... for the better. My heart was warmed by offers to help each other with projects and particularly the combined efforts to help those who were now homebound, as well as those who were not homebound but might still need assistance in some area. The combined years of experience at the table resulted in solutions to many problems.

Yes, we are dreamers and I am delighted to be a dreamer among them.

Ralph Thomas is a Locust Grove resident and the author of Doing Great, but Getting Better and Getting Old Can be Fun. ralph_thomas@bellsouth.net