In my last years of teaching some of my younger colleagues liked to call me the “the Old Dog.”
I liked to think it was because of whatever wisdom and experience I had gathered over my thirty-one year career, but more likely it was because of my propensity for falling asleep very easily, especially during staff meetings.
Since that time, I’ve never deluded myself that the advancing years bring a perspective that anyone I know wants me to share with them.
I’m out of step with the times. I still eat white bread, Big Macs and french fries.
I’m not one to listen to tales of woe and I’m even worse for giving advice. Occasionally, very occasionally, my wife or daughter seeks me out to provide a listening ear. My wife does it more than my daughter.
It never ends well.
Too many days showing World War I battleground videos to my Grade 10 History classes. What it comes down to is that I have no sympathy for anyone who wasn’t gunned down and permanently maimed while running across the muddy swamps of No Man’s Land into a barrage of machine gun fire. Today’s problems, whether it’s dealing with a colleague who’s off their meds or an unsympathetic classroom teacher, seem to pale in comparison. So don’t take any marital advice from me. After most of our conversations my wife is ready to take the axe to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never undergone great suffering myself. The worst discomfort I’ve ever felt is freezing my feet while playing outdoor shinny hockey in -30 Fahrenheit weather. After a couple of hours of that I’d run home and roll on the living room rug, rubbing my thawing feet and screaming. My father would be in his favourite chair, reading the Montreal Star, having a beer and smoking a cigarette. He’d briefly look over at my misery, inhale deeply and then exhale in an exasperated manner. Then he’d snap his newspaper. It was all to let me know that enough was enough. It would all end when my mother called everyone into the kitchen for supper.
So don’t blame me for my tin-eared, awkward, useless, non-advice. It’s a combination of nature and nurture. I’ve learned that from keeping up with all the media reports on the latest psychological studies. I’m probably suffering from one of the many new ailments that are being discovered every day and I’m just waiting for the proper medication.
So I’m mentally ill. At least that’s what I’ll tell my wife.