COLUMN: To age firmly like the mighty oak

This is my Sunday column for the July 15, 2012 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

To age firmly like the mighty oak
By Aaron J. Brown

The other day I went into a coffee shop to do some work on my computer and I noticed that the row of seats by the power outlets were almost entirely occupied by young, attractive women. One seat remained. I sat.

Attractive women have always intimidated me because I have resembled a middle aged father figure since I was 14 years old and that pretty much explains how high school went. My attractive wife managed to ignore my awkwardness long enough for me to get over it, so I’m married but still awkward in a general sort of way.

Now, however, I find that not only is the appearance of attractive women disarming to me, but their age. I am 10 years older than many attractive adults and this isn’t going to get better. Indeed, this is going to get much, much worse. Because there are always more young people but you never get younger. We’re on the Ferris wheel and it’s great, but they’re loading new people on now and you know they’re going to be on the Ferris wheel after you get off and when is that? Soon? If it’s not busy they might spin you around five, six extra times but if the line gets long, who knows? The guy with the levers. He decides.

People tell me I’m too young to think about things like this but I’ve thought about things like this since I decided that comfort was the most important thing about pants. That happened far earlier than it should have. There’s a line in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where George Bailey’s father tells his son, “You were born older.” That was me, too. Not so coincidentally I’ve found it impossible to leave the place I grew up, and endeavor Quixotically to “save it” from a dystopian future. Mr. Potter is everywhere. He is not a man. He is a matter of physics.

We had a big storm a couple weeks ago, maybe you heard about it. Trees down all over Itasca County, especially over in Grand Rapids. There are only a few ways to describe a storm that knocked down thousands of trees and if you live over in Itasca like me you’ve probably heard them all by now.

Well, I overheard two retired guys at the YMCA talking about the storm and the conversation followed all the typical patterns. But the way it closed was an indication to me why I cannot and must not ever retire. They were talking about the different kind of strong, healthy trees that had nevertheless fallen victim the storm’s wrath. One guy says, “And you know what, out of all those trees I didn’t see one single oak come down. Not one.” So the other guy says, without a trace of irony and in complete, unremitting sincerity: “I guess that’s why they call it the mighty oak.”

I told Christina this and she said that the comment was “cute.” A classic old man comment.

I heard this same comment and heard the distant rumble of thunder, a new storm of decades, capable of uprooting all it touches. My goodness, that could be me. I could say something obvious in response to something obvious and not because I was being polite, but because I think it would be a good idea.

Cold out there. Hot out there. You know what they say about politicians. You know what they say about keeping busy.

You know what they say. They say it. And it is so.

I can’t pull off a midlife crisis, not in these pants. I am left with my thoughts. The wind blows gently up on this Ferris wheel. Let me linger here. Then spin me. I do not mind if the spinning lasts longer than usual.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and instructor of communication at Hibbing Community College. He writes the blog and hosts 91.7 KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show on public stations.


  1. Great column. I can relate to the whole thing… almost. The Mr. Potter references, feeling older from the get-go, listening to the old timers. I’m just not quite at that comfort over fashion point with pants. Yet. 😉

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