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Inspired Living: Old dog, new tricks

by Roxanne Henke


The “eating part” of our oldest daughter’s wedding reception was over and the dancing had begun. So far, the DJ hadn’t played any of the music my husband and I (and our friends) liked for dancing, so I asked the DJ, “Could you play some oldies?” He smiled and nodded. I went to the edge of the dance floor and waited. The music didn’t change.

Frustrated, but as politely as possible, I approached again and said, “My husband and I are paying for this reception, could you please play some oldies?” He nodded more earnestly this time. I walked to the edge of the dance floor and stood beside my young niece. Not one tune seemed to change. I gave up.

A new song started and my niece screamed, “Finally! Something from this decade!”

It took a few beats, but I finally realized that to the young DJ, songs from the 1980s (not earlier decades) were “the oldies.”

Some years back, we needed to implement a computer system into our family business. It was a big change for everyone and one of our longtime employees decided she’d rather retire than learn a new way of doing almost everything. I worked alongside her each day and understood her decision, but I was excited about getting computers. Everything was going to be easier and faster.

Fast-forward a couple decades. Last summer, a TV technician knocked on my door, ready to install the systemwide upgrade the TV/cable/internet company was implementing.

I’d been dreading this. For the past few years, we’d had two “smart” TVs. Two remotes for each of them. When we managed to turn them on, we couldn’t figure out how to change from Netflix to regular TV. Most of the time, we just turned them off. I had no idea how adding more technology to the equation could possibly make things “better.”

Les, the cable guy, assured me he’d stay until I had it figured out. (I really didn’t want company for the next month, but I didn’t tell him that.)

He had some problems getting the system to download (or is it upload?) and, honestly, I was rolling my eyes behind his back.

I asked him a couple questions, like how to change the channel when there were NO NUMBERS on the remote! He told me to wait until it was done configuring and he’d show me. “I’m about ready to give up,” I said outloud, and meant it. I love to read. I could possibly manage to live the rest of my life without television.

As we waited, I told him the story of employees who retired rather than learn all the stuff that was supposed to make things easier. I admitted that I finally completely understood their decision.

Les was patient as he demonstrated the new system. He went out the door, taking along two cable boxes and four outdated remotes. He left me with ONE remote for each TV. He also left an instruction booklet, which I told him I’d probably be studying as if I were brushing up for the SATs, not totally kidding. He laughed and left me with my doubts.

It’s weeks later as I type this. The new-and-improved system is faster, easier to navigate, and most importantly, not once have I screamed in frustration.

This experience got me to thinking about other times in my life when I’ve felt “too old” to be in the situations I found myself.

My first memory of being too old was in sixth grade. My cousin was in fifth grade and in years prior we’d spent countless hours playing with Barbies (and Ken, Alan, Midge and Skipper). Those dolls grew along with us, first going into our pretend swimming pools, later going to the prom, and getting married. We’d stopped playing dolls maybe a year ago. But, one afternoon when snooping around my basement, we found my old suitcase filled with the whole Barbie clan and their clothes. Susie and I eyed each other, hooked our pinky fingers together, and solemnly swore to not tell anyone that we were playing Barbies.

I was in my late 30s when I returned to college – way past the let’s-eat-pizza-and-party-all-night age. I had a husband and two kids and lived 100 miles from campus. I was “too old” for this. And yet, it turned out I wasn’t.

I was over 40 when my first novel was published, too old to start a career as a novelist. Later, I was told, most novelists are close to 40 when they get their first book published. (You need some life experience to have something to write about.)

I can foresee a day when I may be too old to care for my grandkids for long stretches of time. Or, too old to wash all the windows in our two-story house, which can’t come soon enough. But I hope I keep my mind and spirit open to learning new things as long as I live. That keeps my mind agile, and keeps me fascinated about our ever-changing, amazing world. (But, I’ll probably always love dancing to “the oldies.” My kind of oldies.)

Roxanne (Roxy) Henke has learned how to watch TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime, and has discovered many new “indie” music artists, but still loves doing the “twist” now and then. You can contact her at roxannehenke@gmail.com.