My children are not only sharp-witted but also sharp-tongued. Unlike their mealy-mouthed mother, they call things as they see them.
That is why several years ago, these two offspring began referring to a particular older couple as the Bickersons. I will let you figure out how this couple earned that nickname.
I was young at the time and resolved that my husband and I would never fall into the habit of bickering. We would not, with age, become testy, snippy, surly, rude, or curt.
As yet, Dan and I have not become the Bickersons, but we are getting close.
This morning the doorbell rang. We both knew the night alarm was still set and if the front door was opened, it would sound. From opposite ends of the house we both headed for the front door. Both of us yelled to the other, “Turn off the alarm!” Neither of us heard the other. Thus, we collided at the front door, simultaneously grabbed the doorknob, heard the alarm blare, and tried to smile at the FedEx delivery man.
That in itself is not bickering, but what followed fringes on it. “Didn’t you hear me say . . . ?” we both began.
That explains one reason why older couples get testy. We don’t hear as well as we once did. Each accuses the other of not listening when, in fact, he or she is listening as intently as ever. It isn’t the listening that is at fault. It is the hearing.
Older folks also tend to get a bit snippy because, over the years, they’ve let their good manners slip. I remember a time when I would not sneeze in front of Dan. I faithfully “caught” each sneeze. I actually told him I never burped. When we visited a park that had side-by-side, men’s and women’s, outside toilets, I refused to use the facility because I feared that Dan, separated from me by only one thin, wooden wall, would hear me tinkle. I had probably told him I didn’t do that either.
Now, sneezes, burps, tinkling, and other less-than-polite body noises are generally tolerated. That is, until one of us becomes particularly offensive in one area or the other. The offended one snaps, “Would you show a little consideration, please?” That prompts the offender to respond, “Me? What about all the times you . . . ?” Such discussions never end well.
Thirdly, older couples snarl at each other because they’ve never put to rest ongoing arguments about how to load the dishwasher, hang the toilet paper, pack the car for a trip, or set the thermostat for the right temperature.
My husband and I don’t fight over many things. We fight many times over the same things.
Also, as one gets older, the distinction between fact and opinion becomes blurred. I say it is a fact that our sagging, stained, threadbare recliner needs to be replaced. He says that is my opinion.
He claims it is a fact the grandkids already have more toys than they know what to do with, and I tell him that is his opinion.
We haven’t yet heard our kids refer to us as the Bickersons, but of course we wouldn’t. For one thing, they probably wouldn’t call us that to our faces and for another thing, we probably wouldn’t hear them if they did.