What a difference the decade between 25 and 35 makes

THIS OLD MAN

May 22, 1994|By Rob Hiaasen

I'm 34. No, I'm 35. I just lied about my age for the first time.

I'm 35 and feel a little old for being so young. Things are happening to me. I'm starting to lie about my age, for one thing. And it takes me longer to get ready for bed. This bed thing really bothers me.

When I was 25 (a great age and what a figure), I remember just going to bed. So simple. I brushed my teeth, took care of some other quick business, and did a free fall into bed. Maybe I didn't brush sometimes. Maybe I left a light on all night. I do know I didn't own pajamas when I was 25.

Now, getting ready for bed is a ritual that takes about a day. I have three kids, ages 5 to 3 to 2. My wife (not her real name) and I attempt to get the kids down around 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. My kids are on Rocky Mountain Time, however. That

means they are two hours behind us in bed time.

My dream is to be cocooned in my bed by 10 p.m., which is another ugly reminder I'm not 25. Ten years ago, I'd leave the house at 10 p.m. You needed a note from your doctor if you returned home before daybreak.

After the kids go down at 8 p.m. or 10 p.m., I can relax. For relaxation, I check whether the doors are locked.

Dads do this one thing better than anything else. We can check a lock, baby. The tradition has been handed down by generations of fathers. Here's the method for checking doors and please listen carefully because it's a little technical: We turn the knob.

When I was 25, I would forget to check the locks of my apartment. I would forget where my apartment was. A few times, the front door would be wide open in the morning. I thought the living room would look a tad bright.

Now, after checking the six deadbolts, it's time to get ready for bed because it's getting very late -- almost 9:30 p.m. and it's a weeknight. My wake-up call will come around 6:30 a.m. when my children will hit the ground bickering. I haven't needed an alarm clock since my first child was born in 1989.

In the Act of Getting Ready for Bed, I still brush. But I also floss and gargle. The whole mouth thing. You want to have a squeaky-clean mouth because if you meet someone in your dreams, you want to be prepared for something wild -- which, of course, never happens.

When I was younger, Right Guard and a 1952 Ace Bandage were the only things in my medicine cabinet. Now, the Red Cross has opened a local office in my bathroom: Pepto-Bismol tablets, rubbing alcohol to clean my face, baby powder, a tub of Advil, and Vaseline.

I use Vaseline because -- help me, someone -- my hands are dry. So, I smear on Vaseline to moisturize my hands. It dawns on me that no one under 35 uses the word moisturize. I also use Ben-Gay because I hurt my left knee when I fell this past winter. I didn't fall on the ice; I fell on the carpet.

When I came to Maryland last year from south Florida, my goal was to stand on all twos. On Feb. 9, I spent 15 minutes crawling up a side street to my new home. I clung to a neighbor's landscape timbers. I grabbed bushes, small trees, small people -- anything -- to get me up the icy hill. I finally got to my front door on my knees. My upright family had a birthday cake waiting for me.

My wife stuck three candles on one side and five on the other side of the cake. It was a face-saving measure because no one wants to see 35 candles pointing fingers at them. No one wants to make three passes at trying to blow out all those candles. You especially don't want your kids seeing you struggle with elementary respiration.

My son, Ben, picked out the cake, and then asked me how my day was. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was, because he's just 5. He knows I love James Taylor's music, so Ben said for my next birthday he'll get me James Taylor books, videos, sheets and "a James Taylor activity center."

It was the perfect thing to hear on my 35th birthday.

We ate my cake, passed out the Aladdin toothbrushes, and then gave the kids their baths. Giving three small children their baths simultaneously will make you lose all interest in bathing yourself.

It was 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time when we got the kids down. This left me an hour before my bedtime.

Giddy from the thought of 60 minutes of idleness, I did what any 35-year-old father of three would do. I brushed, gargled and flossed. I splurged and got myself a glass of water. My hands were a little dry, so I moisturized them with Vaseline.

I pressed Ben-Gay into my neck. My neck wasn't sore, but in my old age I've become addicted to the bouquet of wintergreen.

Then I put my pajamas on -- the cotton, cozy ones I got for Christmas. They were the only Christmas present I asked for.

It was almost 10 p.m. and I wanted to get into bed. But I had forgotten the most important ritual of my night life. I checked the doors.

Then, this old man went to bed.

ROB HIAASEN is a feature writer for The Sun.

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