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Gordon Robinson | The essence of growing old

Published:Tuesday | July 30, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Apocrypha, the fantasyland beyond the clouds where it’s hard to distinguish political friend from foe and Dr Oma D’unn solves political problems by parable, was in the midst of a long, hot summer.

Criss Tufftimes, minister of health (and, well, nice), was wallowing in his favourite environment, namely variegated cameras and microphones advising Apocryphans how to battle the heat. He was especially concerned about the elderly, who he advised to stay indoors in the middle of the day; wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes; and hydrate often with cool water.

But Apocrypha was in the midst of a prolonged drought. Water lock-offs were par for the course.

All day I’ve faced the barren waste

Without the taste of water, cool water.

Old Dan and I with throats burned dry

And souls that cry for water, cool, clear water.

Tufftimes repeated his message daily. But Apocryphans just weren’t listening.

Keep a-movin’, Dan, don’t you listen to him, Dan

He’s a devil, not a man

And he spreads the burning sand with water.

Dan, can you see that big green tree

Where the water’s runnin’ free

And it’s waiting there for you and me?

Tufftimes fielded pushback from women prevented from wearing sleeveless dresses and skirts above the knee; white-collar workers asked to turn up in jackets and ties; and labourers and supervisors on Government’s roadworks forced to toil in the worst of the midday heat with only a hard hat between them and the scorching sun.

You an’ me, we sweat an’ strain

Body all achin’ an’ racked wid pain

Tote dat barge!

Lif’ dat bale!

Ya git a little drunk

An’ ya land in jail.

Tufftimes consulted Oma D’unn. Regular readers remember Oma, retired politician who, despite his PhD in logic, was, like a moon, bright only in the dark. Oma told Criss to buy clean underwear. Criss looked puzzled, so Oma told him the story of the elderly couple who went everywhere together.

Hubert and Martha had been married for 60 years. Martha’s eyesight wasn’t great and Hubert was hard of hearing, so they went everywhere together. Hubert acted as Martha’s seeing-eye dog while Martha was Hubert’s hearing aid and, like all wives, translator of English into wife-speak.

One day, Hubert went to the doctor’s office, with Martha in tow, for his annual physical. The nurse said to Hubert, “The doctor needs a stool sample, a urine sample and a sperm sample.”

“What?” Hubert asked loudly.

Martha translated: “They want your underwear!”

Criss still looked blank, so Oma explained that the elderly had more urgent concerns than getting hot. In any event, most of them couldn’t see or hear Criss, so his message was lost, anyway. The elderly are just happy to be alive.

Ah gits weary

An’ sick of tryin’

Ah’m tired of livin’

An’ scared of dyin’

But ol’ man river

He jes’ keep rollin’ along.

Black American Paul Robeson, born in 1898, was a brilliant bass baritone concert artiste and stage and film actor. He became involved in political activism, including the civil-rights movement. His passion for unemployed workers’ rights led him to sympathise with the Soviet Union and communism.

Not surprisingly, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He’s best known for his performance of Ol’ Man River in the 1936 movie version of legendary musical Showboat (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II) based on a novel written by Edna Ferber.

Also in 1936, Cool Water, a country western classic, was written by Bob Nolan and first recorded in 1941 by Sons of the Pioneers (do you have that one, Uncle Desmond?). My vinyl collection includes several covers of this haunting melody about a man and his mule, Dan, and a desert mirage, including by Marty Robbins, Gene Autry (the original singing cowboy), Tom Jones and the Rooftop Singers.

In order to hydrate with cool water, ya gotta have water!

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.