Young … and Old

Babysitting brings thoughts of how very similar the bookends of life are.

Well, my granddaughter turned 18 months a few weeks ago. Yep. Riley’s a real cutie. And now that she’s getting a little older, my daughter, Cally, is beginning to let me baby-sit every so often. She thinks we play well together. After all, we’re almost on the same reading level, and I’m finally getting some clarity on what sound each animal makes.

But I have to admit that after about 10 minutes of watching The Wiggles, I will try to quietly slip out of the room, and maybe catch up on the news.

That’s when I heard about this curious new legislation that was passed in Arizona. It basically states that women are now pregnant two weeks before conception. I’m not making that up. Pro-choice advocates say it’s just a measure designed to reduce the amount of time a woman is allowed to have an abortion. Doesn’t matter. It’s now the law.

Still, it’s a little unsettling to think that some of us were already around 14 days before our parents even met. And if you think about it, this law is bound to have a couple of major side effects.

— The makers of Plan B will be scratching their heads trying to come up with Plan C

— A dramatic increase in the number of surprise baby showers.

Now if Arizona is going to such great lengths to protect the young, it seems only natural that it might be the first state to pass legislation to appease the elderly.

If life starts two weeks before conception, to even things out legislators should also propose a law that declares you dead two weeks before you die. How great would that be for those of us getting up in years? We’d finally be able to thank the people who attended our funeral and harass the ones who didn’t.

But here’s my point. This new law and my babysitting chores have made me take notice of the similarities in the old and the very young.

There are quite a few.

First of all, neither age group is all that concerned about apparel. Drag out some of your old baby pictures and look at those ridiculous outfits your mother made you wear. Then try to imagine your granddaddy posing for GQ.

It’s usually difficult to pinpoint the moment an elderly person loses the flair for fashion. Unfortunately, I remember the exact day. To my embarrassment, someone pointed out that my crocs didn’t match my belt.

Secondly, both age groups have unique ways of maneuvering from one place to another.

Toddlers always run like they’re engulfed in flames. And the next time you’re at the pharmacy, check out a few of the older customers.

It’s like a contest to see who can take the most steps over the shortest distance.

Communication skills are also similar.

Both groups tend to use hand gestures. For instance, when Riley raises her hand, it means she wants something. When I raise my hand, it means Bingo.

And although the young and old can elicit a very endearing and protective response in all of us, they can also evoke a primal rage.

Screaming babies in movie theaters come to mind. And try standing in line behind some elderly person who’s paying the entire grocery bill in nickels. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you quit caring about health care reform.

Needless to say, extra curricular activities are usually pretty limited.

It will be a while before Riley starts attending school and making a bunch of friends. As for me, well, there’s not exactly a mad rush to fill up my dance card. My evenings are fairly uneventful. I probably get less action than Stedman Graham.

But the good news is that Riley will eventually transition out of this phase in her life.

That will be fun to watch. As her speech develops, her sentences will gradually become more coherent. Sadly, mine will gradually become less.

But as for now, the playing field is pretty level for both of us. She’s even beginning to learn how to play Candyland. In fact, we’re going to play a game the next time I visit.

Actually, it’s the rubber match. 

illustration by Charles Marsh