Addyman's CornerColumnists

‘Grumpy Old Man’

Clashes with the wife prove it to be true

By John Addyman

We’re having a “Grumpy Old Man” discussion in our house.

Because we’re still adhering to coronavirus social distancing protocol, that means the discussion involves only two people — my wife and me.

So when we’re talking about any grumpy old men hanging around, my wife is referring to me.

Problem is, I don’t believe I am a grumpy old man.

Yes, I am a man.

Yes, I am old.

And, on occasion I may, however briefly and momentary, have a strong opinion about something. When this occurs, I approach the ensuing debate with an even hand, a loving demeanor, and a patently friendly and monumentally welcoming embrace of different points of view, however wrong they may be.

Take today.

My sweet wife of many years and I went to the store to get a sponge mop to clean the kitchen floor. I do the floors and windows in the house (is this a great marriage or what?) and when I recently used our old mop, the results were not spectacular. We live in an old house with old floors.

So there we were in the store in the middle of the week, looking at a mop.

On the way in, I started coughing. It’s allergy season, and my allergies had kicked up. I had my mask on, but I was still coughing.

“You’re going to empty the store,” my wife told me. “Maybe you should be wearing a sign that says, ‘It’s only allergies — honest!’”

I looked around: No one was in our aisle. In fact, even though we walked through a crowd of shoppers to get into the store, no one was within sight now.

“Humbug!” I said.

We had to look at a couple of mops before I found one I liked.

“Can we use this on the floor without taking off its protective glossy coating?” I asked my wife, holding the mop in front of her so she could read the label.

“Why are you asking me?” she said, taking hold of the mop.

“Because I don’t have my glasses with me,” I told her. “Read the label and see if this is the mop we need.”

The mop was fine. My wife also read the directions on the cleaner we got, and on the glossy floor stuff we bought. As we headed to the cashier, I had the mop, a big bottle of cleaner, and a new floor brush in my hands. I asked my wife to hold the glossy floor stuff.

“Why do I have to hold this?” she said.

“Because my hands are full.”

“You can’t hold one more thing?” she asked, incredulous.

“If I do, I’m going to drop something and make a mess. Then the cashier will get on the PA system and say to everybody in the store, ‘Spill in Aisle Three! Watch out for the grumpy old man with the mop in his hand. That’s the same guy who came in here with a cough. Tell his wife you’re sorry she has to put up with him.’”

“And she’d be right,” my wife agreed but she carried the glossy floor stuff to the counter anyway.

When we got home, we ran into another little debate.

Word crafters

Before I tell you the story, I have to explain that my wife taught English in high school for 11 years; I taught writing to adults for 17 years.

The two subjects are not anywhere near the same.

She had done some work at our church right before we went shopping for the mop, and I asked her who was working with her.

“It was just Katie and Joanne and I,” she said.

“It was just Katie and Joanne and me,” I responded while correcting her.

“’Katie and I’ is correct,” she pushed.

“Direct object is objective case,” I said. “and ME.”

Then I disagreed with myself: “Actually, you’re using a predicate nominative, so I is also correct.”

She stood there in the kitchen, glaring at me. Usually when my wife glares at me, she backs up to get a better view with her glare. This time she was standing her ground. Then she told me she would never argue grammar with me because I have a bookcase full of grammar books (it’s true) and it was pointless, and oh yes, “You are a grumpy old man.”

“That’s settled,” I said brightly. “What’s for dinner?”

Actually, my grumpiness started a long time ago, and it has made a positive change in my wife.

I’m referring, of course, to garage sales.

Once upon a time, my wife would accompany me to garage sales where I was hunting for records, and buy next to nothing. I would come home with armloads of stuff; she didn’t.

I tried to imbue in her the “First Rule of Garage Sale”: If you like something, don’t walk away from it — it won’t be there when you come back.”

One day, it happened — she loved something, but couldn’t make up her mind, and walked away from it with her grumpy not-quite-so-old husband reminding her of the first rule.

Not 10 minutes later, she wanted to go back and buy the thing which, you knew it, was gone. From that day on, my wife wades into garage sales — she calls it “junking” — with zeal.

Her car is a hatchback with a cavernous space in back and on many a Saturday, she has filled it. She scoops up her treasures in bags, puts them in the car, and sometimes I don’t see what she’s bought for years, when I suddenly look at something sitting on a shelf or table and ask, “Where did that thing come from?”

So I say to all the folks that think we men of a certain age are grumpy — we’re not. We’re lovable.

Ask my wife.

I did.

She didn’t hesitate: “Actually, you’re both.”