Sir Jeff Reaches the Summit

I’ve been having a philosophical debate with myself. Can an unpublished writer legitimately receive hate mail? I hope so.

Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound right.

What I mean is this. If a person receives hate mail, then by default he or she should receive fan mail, right? I won’t say how many pieces of the former I have received, but last week I got my first actual fan mail. Well, technically it could have gone either way, I guess. The sender was hating on me, yes, but thankfully only because I had not posted a column in quite a while. As I responded to that sender, it is with good reason that I have abandoned the keyboard for a few weeks now.

I passed a milestone last weekend. I was not necessarily fond of passing this particular milestone, but I have heard from people with experience that it was much more palatable than passing a kidney stone. (Some folks I know swear that you cannot have one without the other, anyway. But I digress.)

I crested the hill. I rounded the corner. I am now officially on the slide down the back side.

I turned 36.

I know, I know. It’s not the milestone. I have a few years to dread before I get to that one. However, growing up a country music fan, the lines “on the back side of 30” and “closer now to 40 than to 30” (among others) oozed off the tongues of the idols of my youth. Growing up, I simply sang along, imagining this far away Never Land where the natives dined on Centrum and prune juice and wiled away the hours discussing who saved the most money with triple saver coupons at Kroger. I now find myself at the gates of Never Land. Unfortunately, Peter Pan I ain’t.

Obviously, I am coping with all of this just like I do with any tense, stressful, or otherwise depressing period in my life. With my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I mean, if I can’t laugh about it, some of the changes that continue to emerge in the swift tumble down the craggy slope of my 30’s into the valley of the Big 4-0 might be enough to make me crazy. And considering my heredity, I am close enough to that point already and in no need of additional assistance.

First of all, my body has begun talking to me. Loudly. And I don’t mean in the figurative sense.

Last week, I woke up a little late one morning, and upon that realization, turned over and climbed out of bed. As I stood up and made the way across our bedroom to the door of the bathroom, my ears picked up a weird noise. Startled, I asked my wife what it was.

“You,” she answered. “You sound like a family size Jiffy Pop in the microwave.”

My receipt of junk mail hasn’t helped much either. How in the world do the senders of this garbage know the demographic they are reaching? When I was in my 20’s, mail solicitations said stuff like, “You can meet the woman of your dreams. Register today.” Or, “Call today to schedule your test drive and qualify for no interest financing.”

Now, I get junk mail intended solely to remind me of what awaits over that proverbial hill. “Do you have trouble urinating? Well, we’re betting you will! So when the time comes, remember Purinate!” I mean, really. If I was effectively managing to avoid a nervous breakdown about getting older, the great American pharmaceutical manufacturers have sure done their best to not make it so easy. (Good news, though, they have a pill to treat me when I do dive off the deep end.)

But do you really want to know why staring middle age right in its wrinkly old face frightens the fool right out of me and most other men of my generation? It’s because we have had the ultimate “uh-oh” moment: we have looked into the mirror and seen our fathers staring back at us, laughing. We have become the dad we tried so hard to buck growing up. We are the gaudy tie-wearing, corny joke-telling, gas-passing, fish tale-spinning clones of that man who covered the span from greatest hero to most hated enemy.

Speaking solely for myself, though, the revelation that I am transfiguring into my dad is not in and of itself a terrible tragedy. Despite what I might have said in my late teens, he really is a great guy. No, it is a secondary, more subtle—but no less fearsome—realization: I can expect from my boys the same grief that I dealt my dad twenty years ago. That’s enough to make any man weak in the knees.

I guess descending from the summit of Mount 30’s is not such a bad thing. After all, as in the words of my dad and countless other fathers, I woke up warm and on the right side of the grass. It could be worse.

So, to my one fan, I extend my apologies for my hiatus. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to return a call to my dad. Kroger has a triple saver coupon special on prune juice, and he and I are going to stock up.


  1. I want to know the minute the book begins and the minute it goes on sale as I will be the first one in line to purchase and to meet the author........and yes I want an autograph and picture. You are an amazing writer and need to take this God given gift and share it with the world........seriously.......the world.

  2. Love it...thank you for always making me smile, smirk, and think...things I don't take enough time to do these days!!! Keep 'em coming!

  3. you must have more than one fan, because I am definately a fan, and have neglected to bug you recently. Love your writing!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts