Another Door Opens

There’s this song I heard that has been bugging me for several months now. I actually heard about it while listening to an interview with Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood and country-music singer Toby Keith were playing golf together at a Pebble Beach charity event two years ago. During the round of golf, Eastwood said to Keith: “I turn 88 on Monday.”
Keith said, “What are you going to do?”
Eastwood replied, “I am going to shoot a movie,” adding that filming was starting in two days.
Keith said, “What keeps you going?”
Eastwood replied, “I get up every day and don’t let the old man in.”
Later Toby Keith wrote a song, “Don’t Let The Old Man In” and Willie Nelson recorded it.

Don’t let the old man in
I wanna leave this alone
Can’t leave it up to him
He’s knocking on my door

And I knew all of my life
That someday it would end
Get up and go outside
Don’t let the old man in

Many moons I have lived
My body’s weathered and worn
Ask yourself how would you be
If you didn’t know the day you were born

Try to love on your wife
And stay close to your friends
Toast each sundown with wine
Don’t let the old man in

When he rides up on his horse
And you feel that cold bitter wind
Look out your window and smile
Don’t let the old man in

Look out your window and smile
Don’t let the old man in

Clint Eastwood is 92 now and still directing. I, on the other hand, have been happily retired for 16 years. It instantly occurred to me that I long ago “let the old man in.” And worse, I let him in happily. And as for you, Clint, I really liked you when you were Rowdy Yates.

It wasn’t that I felt old and tired when I first retired. I snowmobiled in the winter, fished and bounced around the mountains in the summer. But after 6 years of cutting my own wood for the stove and fireplace, I started feeling worn out. And old. At 68.

I told a friend I had finally stopped chopping wood. He smiled. “Hell, I quit that at 50.”

When One Door Closes…

Six years into my “golden years” and I had lost the desire to cut wood, and worse, to even go outside on a cold winter night to bring in some more wood to stay reasonably warm. And I began to get what some Montanans call “bone cold.” Yup. That damned Clint Eastwood had not only not retired, he was still making movies! Yikes! And 30 years older than I was when I retired. Guess I had really let the old man in!

But wait… what was so terribly wrong about that? Why had I been so anxious to retire in the first place? Easy. My music career had tubed and there was nothing left to do. Retirement, for me, signaled a new life, a new existence without deadlines, traffic, hurrying, worrying… it was like a reward for staying real busy for 50+ years. And dammit, I was ready for that!

And I found myself wondering, deep into the evening, and equally deep into my favorite brandy, what sort of old man would I be? Would I be over-weight and wrinkled? Would I have a long, white shaggy beard? Would I finally become more deliberate, and speak slower? Would my voice be gravelly, warm? Would my eyes be wise, deep and twinkling? Would I listen well and understand what others say, beyond their actual words? Would I be able to hear their motivations for their words, see their dreams beyond their words, hear their hearts desires and know their level of sincerity?

No. No I wouldn’t. And no, I didn’t. If one hasn’t grown in those ways throughout his/her life to one degree or another, one isn’t going to be an instant cool person on the day they turn 70. And neither did I. Oh, I wanted to, god knows. I even tried, from time to time. If wishes were horses… but in the end we all become the final result of who we have been becoming all along. Hopefully it’s a good version of ourselves, one we can at least be reasonably proud of.

I Guess It’s A Good Song, But…

“Don’t Let The Old Man In” is a phrase that, to me, suggests a fear of old age, with some ego thrown in for good measure. I think it might spring from an inner fear of old age, of their concept of old age, perhaps even their inability to deal with their mortality. Whatever, it sure got my attention. It left me wondering if I were an old weakling who no longer had the gumption to continue doing the things I’d done all my life. That, to me, was potentially bad Ju Ju and I needed to get to the bottom of it.

It’s strange, how a little glass of brandy in the evening can relax me and help me begin accessing the part of my brain that actually thinks fairly clearly. It’s probably the important part of the brain that the Buddhists saved for me, knowing I would accidentally destroy most of the rest of it. Those darn Buddhists!

As Americans, we are not necessarily educated to see life in any sort of philosophical manner. Religious, yes, of course, but any psychologoical or philosophical learning we might have stumbled onto probably came from our favorite uncle. I have always been left with the thought that getting old is a bad thing, probably because the only grandparent I knew was sad, sickly and mentally unstable… all the things we fear might happen to us when we get old. I’ve seen great examples of old people who were happy, satisfied with their lives, still living each day with whatever gusto they could muster, always with a good attitude and warm heart. I think we all need that, that person to show us how to go where we have not gone before with grace and acceptance, rather than fear. One of my biggest blessings is that I now live with that person!


After all, getting old is a kind of triumph over the difficulties of life. Being old is physical proof that the old one has survived the trials and pitfalls of a long existence on this earth. I’ll bet that if we celebrated “being old” more, it might become a more acceptable condition in our culture, or at least diminish some of the fear and negativity of it. I have a friend in Montana who told me once, “You’re how old?? Wow! You’re looking pretty decent for your age! I’m glad I have you to pave the way for me, to show me it can be okay.” Ha! That still makes me smile… “to show me it can be okay.” Indicating a fear and loathing of having to get old. But I understand. I felt that way for a long time, too.

If I Were A Rich Man…

One of the problems with getting old is having to live on what we were able to save. Having enough to live comfortably is subjective, and most of us have wildly different ideas about what is “enough.” I think that the concept of “enough” is somehow tied to how we feel about old age. I’m going to give you four different types of “enough” and see if you can identify a person who might say that. And, which one are you? Here goes,
1. “There’s no such thing as enough. It’s a mythical concept. It doesn’t exist! There is no enough! How could we know how much ‘enough’ is unless we have it??”
2. “I’ll never have enough, never get enough. I always want more. More is a good thing!”
3. “I don’t have enough yet, I’d still like morel Probably some think I have enough, but I don’t.”
4. “Hell, I might have more than enough! For sure I have enough, and am very happy with what I have.”

See, having enough implies that something inside us is finally finished… that the search, or the striving, or whatever, is at an end. That thought, that feeling probably connects in our minds to being old, of our lives being nearly over. All our lives we have worked for things, and aside from it being a hard habit to break after 40 or 50 years, it also suggests our lives are nearly done. That’s some scary shit for most of us, and it becomes easier to see why many of us don’t have, or don’t want to have “enough.”


And so, Clint Eastwood and Toby Keith, I’ve had quite enough of your chickenshit response to the idea of getting old. Keep the door closed, if you must. Keep the old man out. Ignore, fight off, run from one of the most rewarding parts of your lifetime. Dig your fingernails into your dying youth, hold onto it even after it  turns to dust in the wind, and hurts to get out of bed in the morning.

I know all about this, this fear of old age thing. But I didn’t fight it. Well, I did in a way. But I handled it the way a lot of red-blooded American men do… I bought a muscle car, a Mustang GT and was done with the whole fear and the worry.

For B and me, there is so much to enjoy now, so much to laugh about, so much fine time to share together. There is a richness now in our daily lives that we didn’t have before. Our dreams are fairly complete, and we’re both happy with how we turned out… as people in the world, as parents, as two who are still willing to help others when they need it. We have let the old man and the old woman in, and are delighted with the results. We haven’t let the fear in, the fear of things we don’t yet understand, the fear of change, the fear of losing what we have always been.

I have a new song for you, Toby. Don’t Let The Fear In. Yes. I can almost hear it now. ‘Course, Clint ain’t gonna like it much. But you know what I say to that, don’t you? (Smiley face) Write this song, Toby, and see if it doesn’t somehow change your perspective on life, and perhaps yourself. Because without the fear of growing old, the growing old becomes a welcome experience to be understood and appreciated… appreciated for what got us to this point in the first place.

See, my morning coffee tastes great, my glasses help my eyes see more clearly, I play with the pup and love my lady with all my heart. I cry at hearing the good old songs, and laugh at how silly and ridiculous most of the outside world has become. The food B fixes us is always wondeful and nutritious, the evening drinks are always mellowing. And sleep is always blissful. Damn, think of it. And all because I let the old man in.

Steve Hulse

One Reply to “Another Door Opens”

  1. Hmmmm….I don’t think you let the old man in…I think you let the smart man in…Clint isn’t cutting wood and living in a freezing climate where he has to go out and plow the snow or dig the car out of the snow….he is doing “easy” living, not that making a movie is easy, but he doesn’t have to fight to get to the studio! From you old friend (going to be 69 next month!) hugs to you and B!

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