Column: Old men relish company
Older men are needy and want some fellowship now and then. Well, actually, they need a lot of fellowship and just not now and then.
There seems to be a certain something that makes old men long for exposure to other old men because they can all empathize with each other about the vagaries of getting old. It becomes fun to compare each other’s complaints and ailments. Besides that, meeting with other elders does something to the old psyche and stimulates the thought processes. We welcome new members all the time and immediately delve into their background and ask for tales of what life was like for them during their working years.
We call our gathering the Grumpy Old Men’s Coffee Hour. No rules, nobody in charge, no time to arrive and no time to leave. We encourage members to recruit new ones to our gatherings every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You don’t even have to be elderly. Coffee is free, or you can bring your own. Every day, someone has some item of interest he wants discussed and we delve into the topics with gusto.
At first, it was poorly attended. Then, the word got circulated and now, the room is nearly filled. But they are not really grumpy. They are high spirited for their age. They make you a better person for enjoying their company. So far, the oldest is Ed at age 87 from Canada, and the youngest is Jose at age 67, originally from Costa Rica. We even email each other with questions. Someone is always bringing something interesting to the table.
We compare ages, tell of our surgeries and illnesses and, of course, brag about our children and, especially, our grandchildren.
One of my good buddies, Bob Sullivan, has an intriguing background. He is a Vietnam survivor and was in the thick of the battle. We sit in awe as he tells about fighting the enemy in the jungles. After Vietnam, Sullivan came back to the U.S. and became the Air Force’s officer in charge of recruiting military watch dogs, for the lack of a better name.
There was a dog named Nemo who had attacked night infiltrators and killed two enemy soldiers. In the process, he was wounded in his eye and became retired. Nemo came back to the states. Sullivan traveled throughout the U.S. appearing on radio and television shows with Nemo and recruiting attack/sentry/scout/track/patrol dogs. Almost all of these dogs were German shepherds. Sullivan remembers recruiting about 8,000 dogs over three years.
Nemo is immortalized at the dog handlers’ school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. There is a bronze statue of Nemo that honors the work of the attack dogs and the role they play in combat. Nemo’s entire kennel has been remade and serves as a memorial to this brave dog.
Gerald “Jerry” Krueger is a retired educator, coach, commercial pilot and farmer. Write him at email@example.com. His column publishes Mondays.