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What I Learned This Week: Getting Old as a Godfather or Grandfather

06/09/2013 11:36 EDT | Updated 08/09/2013 05:12 EDT

If you are reading this, we have at least one thing in common: we are both a day older than yesterday.

And, provided we are not met with some catastrophic circumstance in the next 24 hours, tomorrow, we will both be one day older than today.

Despite a plethora of industries, products and promises that try to impede the march of time, it plods along nonetheless, coolly, efficiently and mercilessly.

Yes, this post is about getting old. Old-er, at least. And it comes at a strange coincidental crossroads of recent events, namely yours truly making the final payment on my "final resting place"; the brutal reality of a close high school friend undergoing triple-bypass surgery; and the upcoming arrival of Father's Day this Sunday.

It's a strange feeling both, when you learn about a friend undergoing a major medical procedure, at about the same time you get a "paid-in-full" notice after 18 months of paying off your gravesite, a plot of land perhaps the most expensive real estate in the world. Your mortality, so certain a little while ago, is questioned. In doing so, your mind gets scrambled in a Blend-tec spin cycle of "what if?", conjuring up multiple scenarios, almost all of them bad.

And then, a splash of reality calms you down. A bit. For a while.

Let's get real, then. In the case of my friend, he's on the mend, doing fine (surreally in this new world, we check up on him constantly via a web app called CaringBridge), and -- happily, luckily -- he, too is a day older today than yesterday.

As for my cemetery plot, when I eventually get to use it, at least it's city-central, close to those of my parents and grandparents, making it a convenient visiting spot for my kids...provided that my younger son doesn't move away like my older one has already done. Paranoia aside, I don't think I'll be needing it for a while. Well, I hope I won't...

So this week's lesson COULD be:

"Getting old sucks...unless you consider the alternative."

But it's not.

Because the advent of Father's Day made me re-think about the way one gets old.

Actually, it was a side comment in a meeting about how to garner respect from a younger, new breed of entertainer that led me to the Father's Day thoughts; the comment was "You want to be seen as a Godfather figure."

And THAT was the catalyst, the launching point to this week's lesson.

The way I see it, there are two "Fatherly" ways to get old.

YOU CAN GET OLD

AS A GODFATHER...

OR AS A GRANDFATHER

Here's the difference:

  • Getting old as a Godfather commands reverence.
  • Your accomplishments are known and admired.
  • You are looked upon with esteem.
  • You are perceived as a mentor, filled with advice and wisdom that will help others learn and grow.
  • You may be older than "the others," but you're never treated as such; you're "one of them in spirit" and all (most) of the physical features that distinguish you from the others are ignored.
  • And perhaps best of all, mixed in with all this high regard, is a soupcon of fear.
  • Need a visual? Think Francis Ford Coppola.

Getting old as a Grandfather is a different story.

  • Just think of the meaning of "The Grandfather Clause" -- it's there now only because it always was.
  • Sure, your accomplishments may also be known, even appreciated, but today they are yesterday's news and somewhat irrelevant.
  • You are looked upon with love, but as a relic of the past.
  • Your advice will most probably fall upon deaf ears, or met with an eye-roll if actually heard. They may be quaint stories of yesteryear, but they hold no current significance.
  • You look way older than the rest of them, and are treated as such, being given the comfy chair in the back or the arm to stabilize your walk.
  • And perhaps worst of all, mixed in with all this legitimate affection and warmth is a spoonful of pity.
  • I'd say "Paint your own visual," but I know by now you already have. Many times.

There's a fine line between the two. You can't be young again, but to be a "Godfather," you have to stay in today's game without looking like you're trying too hard to do so (like the Capitol Records execs of the early '60s who sported Beatle wigs and snapped their fingers in an effort to be cool). At times, you have to play hard to get. Your accomplishments should speak for themselves; more likely, you should let others speak of them for you. The territory is filled with mines. One false step and you're blown into Grandfatherland.

Unless one of those future-tapping companies invents a wonder drug or time machine, we are all getting older. Fighting it is futile; the only choice is one of two "Fatherly" paths at the fork in the road.

So take your pick -- going Grand is good...but doesn't come close to playing God.

(Political correctness check: I could easily substitute the word "Mother" for every "Father." Go ahead if you really need to. It's just that "Father" is more timely this week, and the image of a Godfather is somewhat more searing than that of a Godmother. )