My wife suggested this one. I wish I didn’t know why. Perhaps I am an isolated example and in this case the particular cannot be transposed to the general, but I think I may not be alone on this one. The issue that annoys us may be trivial, but behind it there may have been a build up of some frustration or stress that is latent but waiting for an opportunity to explode. And for this otherwise friendly and naturally forgiving person – as I fantasise that I am – the volcano blows its top and suddenly I become a tail lashing and teeth gnashing tiger. Or something like that.
My father was a kind and courteous man – a true gentleman, people said. He found it difficult to make up his mind on controversial issues because, as once he told me, he could always see every point of view. One day we went into a shop together, and I was aware that he was nursing some grievance. I can’t remember what it was all about, but my father – this quiet, good man -was suddenly extremely angry with the assistant who had failed him in some way.
I wondered at the time why he was behaving so uncharacteristically. Now I know. It was tetchiness, and in this matter at least it seems I sometimes follow in my father’s untypical footsteps.
It is usually very ordinary and mundane things that triggers anger in the elderly. It can be to do with the fact of age – someone perhaps treat you in a patronising way and instead of smiling with resignation as you might normally do, you tell them – forcibly – how you feel. I recognise the same tetchiness in people of any age, but especially the young. Again – it can build up slowly. Your parents or teachers have been nagging at you over all sorts of things so that you begin to feel got at from every direction until an opportunity presents itself for grottiness or a major grump, and you let rip.
Perhaps this is another connecting link between the young and the old. Seven or seventy and you are affected by the same syndrome. What’s to be done about it? Self-control of course; some understanding people around you who are good at forgiving; the ability to forgive yourself if necessary.
But blowing your top in certain circumstances can be rather fun. And at least you get noticed.