The guru on the mountain top
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 by Ron Cruger
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A wise man teaches me about growing old
          The first time I saw the small building on top of the mountain near our home I was twelve years old. The mountain was only two miles away from our house. I was coming home from school when I first noticed it. Most of the time clouds hid the small house, but on this day I saw it. It was a small cabin, built of the logs from the trees surrounding it.
          When I arrived at my home I asked my father about the cabin on the mountain top. He told me, “It’s the home of an old man, son. A wise old man who lives alone and sees no one. He’s been alone on that mountain top for fifty years or more. Never comes down. Lives off nature. Nobody knows any more about him than that. Remember, son. Nobody goes to that mountain top to see the “Guru.” That’s what the old timers call him – the “Guru.”
         The days passed quickly. Now I was twenty one years old. I was going to college, but still living with my parents. I hadn’t thought about the “Guru” on the mountain top all these years.
          Then one day, when the sun shone brightly and the winds blew the clouds from the mountain top I once again saw the cabin where the “Guru” lived. I wondered if he was still alive, still living his solitary life.
          A Thursday and a Friday at college passed. Saturday was my catch up day. Do my homework, wash my car, have dinner with my parents.
          Sunday came when I jog my usual four miles in the morning. Two miles into my jogging I looked up at the mountain top and there it was clear as can be – the “Guru’s” cabin.
          Something mystical drew me to it. I changed my route and headed for the cabin on top of the hill. My jog slowed to a fast walk as I approached the cabin. I didn’t realize how steep the climb to the mountain top was.
          And then I was there. Forty feet ahead of me was the log cabin. I wasn’t sure how to present myself.
          As I thought about how to proceed, the door of the cabin opened and an elderly man stood and stared at me. He was at least ninety years old. His hair was pure white. He was thin, tan and stood erect. He leaned against the frame of the door and stared at me. Then he said,   How can I help you, my son?”
          I was startled, but managed to say, “Sir, I am here just to meet you. I have known of you for much of my life. I hope you don’t mind me being here.”
          The elderly man walked from the doorway towards me. He appeared to be strong and healthy. He wore sandals, jeans and a plaid wool shirt. When he reached me he held out his hand to meet mine. He grasp was strong and firm.
          He pointed back to the doorway of his cabin and raised his hand, showing me the way. He said, “Come, son. We shall have tea.”
          Inside, the cabin was spartan but comfortable.The furniture and bed appeared to be home made. He heated water for the tea and then poured it into two metal cups. We both added honey.
          Then the “Guru” said, “I sense you have great questions, my son. I am only a lonely old man living here by myself, but I will try to answer your questions.
          I decided to call him “Guru.” He appeared to be comfortable with me calling him that.
          “Guru” I have many questions about life, but the ones that are so mysterious to me are about what happens to a man when he grows older. I have watched my father, my uncles and others grow old and my question is – what will happen to me as I reach my fifties, sixties and seventies?”
          The “Guru” sipped his tea and then placed it on the rough hewn table in front of us.
          “My son, many changes will come about as the years pass. Do you really want me to tell you about them?”
          “Yes. Tell me of all of these changes that come with a man growing old.”
          “Well, my son. The picture of these changes is often not pretty.”
          “Tell me of them, ‘Guru.’ “
          “Well, here are some of the changes that will most likely happen to you, my son. Your memory will worsen. You will walk from one room to another and forget the reason you walked there. People will notice that you have missed clumps of whiskers on your face when you shave. Your forehead will appear larger and a round, bald spot will appear and grow larger on the top of your head.”
          I sipped my tea and listened to the “Guru” continue.
          “Your arms will grow skinnier and your once strong thighs will grow weak. You will find yourself saying, ‘Huh,’ and ‘what” frequently as your hearing fades. Because of your worsening hearing you will ask everyone to turn up the television a bit, believing that something is wrong with the television set.”
          “You will think that the type on prescription bottles is getting smaller. You will only be able to read the top two lines on the eye chart and the doctor will prescribe glasses for you and he will tell you that you will have to be careful to have check ups every year for glaucoma. As the years go by you will notice your hands shaking for no reason. Moles, skin tags and strange blotches will begin to appear on your skin and your doctor will tell you, ‘Nothing to worry about, they’re normal!’ “
          “And, my son, you will grow shorter. You will no longer be able to say you are six feet tall. Later in your life you will lose at least two inches in height. One day, my son, you will notice blue varicose veins decorating your legs. Your old friends will send you pictures of roller skate keys, nineteen fifty Chevrolets, Tootsie Rolls, Green Stamps and old malt shops and you will remember those good old days. You will step on your bathroom scale and notice you are gaining twenty pounds a year since you were fifty. You’ll find moles growing on your body with long hairs growing from them. One day you will notice a bush of hairs growing from your ears.”
          “You and friends of your age will discuss exactly where arthritis has settled in your bones. Getting up from your reclining chair will become a massive effort. You won’t be able to eat the same foods as you do now. An authentic Mexican dinner will leave you groaning and swearing that you’ll never eat that way again. You will be unable to sleep if you have a cup of coffee after three in the afternoon. If you have a late dinner you will burp and be uncomfortable all night long. You will find indigestion a normal part of your daily life. Your doctor will tell you to stay out of the sun and he will urge you to keep your eye on that suspicious growth on your neck.”
          “You’ll notice that young girls that you consider attractive will suddenly be calling you ‘sir.’ On the tennis court you’ll find your serves are always returned and following two sets you will go home and rest for the remainder of the day. You’ll realize you haven’t really jogged in fifteen years. The words Social Security will become vastly important to you.”
          I had been listening to the “Guru” for over an hour. I was fascinated by the things he had told me.
          “My son, other things will happen as you grow older. You will find many of these changes as you see your image in your mirror. Some day, when you have more time you come to the mountain top and we will discuss more about growing old.”
          I shook the “Guru’s” hand and thanked him for his time and the tea. I promised that someday I will return to hear more of his knowledge.
          As I began my walk home I turned and saw the “Guru” standing in his doorway, waving to me. He had a gentle smile on his face.
          When I got home I quickly walked to the mirror in the bathroom and looked for signs. I was twenty one then. Now, I am decades older and find that the “Guru” knew what he was talking about. Dammit!”