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The wisdom to know the difference l Chuck's World


Last updated 2/7/2018 at Noon

Justice, simply put, is a restoration of balance, a return to symmetry, a transformation of wrong into right. We can wander all over the map when it comes to what needs to be set right, and how, but that’s always the goal.

So my closet is a testament to justice. For years of my adult life, hanging in my closet were several shirts illegally obtained, by which I mean I stole them from my father’s closet.

What can I say? Dad had some nice shirts, and when I was a teenager and a bit older, occasionally I needed one. And forgot to bring it back.

Now, looking in my closet, I notice that I haven’t seen a couple of shirts in a long time. Or, maybe I’ve seen them, but worn by another person. A male person related to me, and thus the scales are finally balanced and I might go to heaven after all.

I even did my part the other day to right past wrongs, and gave one of my shirts directly to my son, sparing him another episode in a life of crime. It looked better on him, too.

Everything looks better on him. There’s a good reason for this, which I’m going to attempt to explain for the edification of some of you. This would be those of you in a similar penultimate stage of life, waiting for the whistle to start the fourth quarter, glancing at the scoreboard a little more often, understanding that our existence has an expiration date and that it’s approaching quickly now, and also noting that we’re missing some shirts and wondering why.

We’re old. They’re young. That’s why.

Stealing my shirts is just my son’s way of gently nudging me out the door. Young people understand the way the world functions, that it’s always about coming in with the new and heading out with the old. I can fiercely defend my years of experience, my hard-earned wisdom, my gray hairs, my opinion on the Oxford comma, but we both know it doesn’t really matter.

I’ll mention that this changing of the guard, as inevitable and rational as it seems, takes me a little by surprise. My son, who turns 28 this week, has been my constant companion for his entire life. I was a parent who worked at home, and he is autistic.

You might be able to relate. I had a more intimate perspective on his growth than a normal parent, possibly. He was less independent, and more reliant on adult guidance and company. The usual milestones were reached at widely varying times, and much of his life has been spent with doctors and therapists, special teachers, and whatever community support systems we could find.

He was placed on a seizure medication as a child that was known to promote weight gain, and it became quite a promotion. A very tall kid from the beginning, he’s towered over me for years, and as he approached 300 pounds it began to feel as though I had my own bodyguard.

But you know how this goes. People change, and grow, even if their timeline is unusual and delayed. He spent the past two years adjusting his routines, glacial change but significant, and now he’s just a tall, lean, muscular, bearded young man who accompanies me to the grocery store, watching me anxiously in case I clutch my chest suddenly and dissolve into a pile of wrinkled flesh and old-fashioned ideas about semicolons.

I still try to help, though, passing on advice from time to time, trying to leave him some bread crumbs for when he reaches my stage of life and I’m either gone or else entertaining the other old folks with stories about the time I once saw Billy Joel.

I had a good opportunity last week. We were in the store, wandering the aisles, when I caught the eye of a (much) younger woman. She smiled in a friendly and sort of inviting way, which threw me. I’m nearly 60 years old. I’m supposed to be invisible, and certainly not getting flirty looks from women the age of my daughter.

And then it happened again. A young woman, attractive, appearing reasonably sane, gave me one of those looks. It made no sense.

I’m not without delusions. I look in the mirror and occasionally see someone who cannot possibly exist, and I might have some magical thinking from time to time. Even an old guy can dream.

But I really didn’t turn heads when I was younger, and I’m not supposed to now, at least not anywhere this side of a retirement facility. It just seemed weird that these women would be looking at me with anything other than indifference, if not impossible.

OK. It’s impossible.

So I had a funny story to tell my wife, but I thought it might be useful to my son, also. There might be a lesson here about perceptions, about appropriate behavior, about judgment and discretion. This is the sort of thing an older person can share with a younger one, advice gleaned from experience with romance and attraction.

Here’s the life lesson, then. If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not that good and it’s almost certainly not true.

I turned to my son beside me, to share the lesson, which is when I suddenly realized that these women hadn’t been looking at me at all, and that justice is a real thing.


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