A Weekly Column
Joseph Walker


So I’m walking across the college campus feeling very . . . you know . . . collegiate.

I’m wearing jeans, a sweat shirt and tennis shoes, so I’m certainly dressed for the part.  My book bag is slung over my shoulder, and my hair is badly in need of a trim.  Strolling among the students it all begins to feel familiar, like I’ve been here before . . . which, of course, I have.  Twenty-six years ago, to be precise.  Only from this side of my bifocals it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.  Everything looks the same.  I’m home again.  Joe College.

Except for one thing: I can’t remember if the library is on this side of the book store, or if it’s over there.  I stop at a campus map to refresh my memory.  Suddenly I notice this cute co-ed giving me . . . you know . . . The Look.  At first I think maybe I’m mistaken, so I look away.  Maybe we had a class together or something.  After all, it was only a few years ago . . .

I glance back.  She’s still looking.  She begins to move toward me. Poor thing.  How can I let her down easily?

“Excuse me, sir,” she says.


She continues: “I couldn’t help but notice . . .”

“Yes?” I interrupted anxiously.

“You look a little lost.  May I help you?”

I recognize her tone of voice, and I’m relieved and devastated all at once.  It’s that same condescending tone we all use with the very young – and the very old.

“I think I’ve got it figured out – thanks anyway,” I say, fighting off an overwhelming urge to call her “dearie.”  She starts to leave, but I stop her.  “You know, you look awfully familiar to me,” I say.  “Didn’t we have a class together a few years ago?”

She eyes me warily.  “I don’t know,” she says.  “When were you here?”

“My last year was 1979.”

She smiles kindly.  “Sorry,” she says as she turns to leave, “but I wasn’t born until 1984.”

For some reason, there’s a little less bounce in my step as I trudge wearily to the library.  Walking past the book store, I notice in the glass window a reflection of this old guy wearing jeans, a sweat shirt and tennis shoes.  “What is it?” I wonder.  “Geezer Day or something?”

Then I study the reflection more carefully.  The geezer in the glass is me.  I keep forgetting what the years have done to me.  In my mind I’m still the svelte sophomore who prowled the campus 26 years ago.  In fact, I don’t feel any different today than I did in high school.  But then I step on the basketball court and try to keep up with my 7th grade son, or I try to follow my 15-year-old daughter’s peculiar brand of logic (“It’s OK if I don’t wear a jacket in the middle of winter because nobody else is wearing one so nobody is any colder than anyone else”) and I realize that I AM different.  My body is different, my mind works through problems differently and many of my values and perspectives are vastly different than they used to be.

And that isn’t such a bad thing, is it?  Life is seasonal, and the ebb and flow of the seasons of our lives brings about change – physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and socially.  Not only would life be boring if everything always stayed the same, but there would also be precious little progress.  And so we age.  And we change.  And hopefully, we grow.

Which may sound like a long-winded way of justifying the physical deterioration I have allowed to happen to myself through the years.  But it isn’t.  Not really.  It’s a way of looking at life, accepting its seasonal variances and embracing the wondrous opportunity of change.

And while you’re at it, learning to recognize and appreciate the geezer in the glass.

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— © Joseph Walker

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