Grumpy Old Men (or, A Man Called Ove, or Get Off My Lawn!)

Okay, maybe this image of Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski from the movie Gran Torino (2008) is a little extreme. But we almost all of us know the “get off my lawn guy”. Heck, sometimes these days I am the get off my lawn guy!

Maybe Homer Simpson is a better example, although I am sure there are Walt Kowalskis in the world.

 

When I was a kid on Dyson Drive in Atlanta, it was Colonel James G. Bogle. I am sure he was a nice man. He lived a long life (1915-2010), and I hope a happy one. Our family spent many evenings at the home of his family. His daughter, Alice, a few years older than me, had a wonderful bedroom filled with the most spectacular array of toys and games. I was allowed to play in there. According to my sisters, Alice also had all the best Barbie stuff. Col. Bogle kept up a miniature train wonderland in his basement. But I was afraid of him, and we all knew not to step on his lawn

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Colonel James G. Bogle

Once, when I was in about 2nd grade, there was a hurricane warning issued, and the school decided to send us all home. It was getting really dark outside, and it was kind of exciting. My mother was at work, and couldn’t come get me. We only lived a block away from the school, but I wasn’t allowed to just walk home. So Col. Bogle came to pick me up and walk me home. I remember being frozen in place, afraid to go with him, and afraid of the coming storm. What’s a scared little girl to do? Looking back on it, it breaks my heart to think of how he must have felt seeing my fear. I wish I could apologize, or have a redo, and slip my hand in his and walk down the street happily missing an afternoon of school.

 

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I just finished reading the book A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. I loved this book, and loved the main character Ove. The book is at times funny, at others sad. Ove can be frustrating. But it’s made me think about the stories of grumpy old men and how they came to be who they are.

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I first proposed reading A Man Called Ove to my neighborhood book group after it was suggested to me by one of my animal shelter buddies (and one of my favorite volunteers). My book group declined; they had mostly all read it already and one guest (not a member, just visiting) said she didn’t like it, finding grumpy Ove tedious. Hmmm. Makes me wonder if she is the Grumpy Old Woman version of the get off my lawn guy. (Unfortunately, I’ve had to give up the book group for the time being due to schedule conflicts. But I made some great friends and received so much encouragement from my fellow bookies regarding my school and career decisions.)

The book is from Swedish author Fredrik Backman, and has since been made into a film.

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Author Fredrik Backman

 

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You’ll notice there is a cat featured on both the book cover and the movie poster. Maybe that’s partly why I love this book and I love Ove. The cat does play a central role in showing us Ove’s lovable side. And he does have one.

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I can’t wait to watch this movie!

Speaking of movies, there was the Grumpy Old Men movie (1993) and the sequel, Grumpier Old Men.

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Two of my favorite grumpy old men,  Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, both now deceased.

 

And there was Harry and Tonto back in the day (1974), another lovable grumpy old guy with a cat.

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Art Carney played Harry.

 

Another great grumpy old guy who has a story we learn (and I cried over) and comes to find a new life is Carl Fredricksen, voiced by Edward Asner, in the Pixar animated film Up. This time it’s a dog, named Dug, not a cat. Kids and animals are often the way to the heart of the grump.

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Carl, finally smiling, with Russell and Dug.

 

One of my particular favorites is Peter O’Toole as Alan Swann in My Favorite Year (1982), not necessarily grump, but a handful with a back story.

 

The point is, everyone has a story. Ove’s story was the loss of his beloved wife Sonja, the only person who ever seemed to accept him for who he was.

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Ove meets Sonja, a ray of sunshine and the love of his life.

 

The story is often one of loss and loneliness. I write a lot about kindness toward animals, but I also worry that we aren’t kind enough to each other. Bullying in any form is not okay, and often mistreatment of animals and of people go hand in hand. Whether it is your neighborhood Grumpy Old Man or Crazy Cat Lady, show some compassion. Like Ove with Parvaneh and her family, they might come to mean the world to you.

 

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Ove eventually becomes a grandfather figure for Parvaneh’s daughters.

 

Peace and hugs.

Proud to be a Crazy Cat Lady

Hi, my name is Genevieve, and I’m a Crazy Cat Lady.

Yes. I admit it.

Now that you’ve gasped in surprise, let’s talk about where this label comes from; how Crazy became part of the equation when a woman loves cats.

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The Urban Dictionary definition of  Cat Lady is my favorite:

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And what about a man who loves cats?

One of my favorite books as a child (and still as an adult) was Harriet the Spy.

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And one of the characters she spies on is a MAN who has an apartment full of CATS.

“When Harriet was all through with her dinner and bundled off to bed, she began to think of Harrison Withers and all his cats. Harrison Withers lived on Eighty-second at the top of a dilapidated rooming house. He had two rooms, one for him and one for the cats. In his room, he had a bed, a chair, and a work table at which he made birdcages, and a whole wall of birdcage-making tools. In the other room, there was nothing but the cats. In the kitchen there was one glass, one cup, and twenty-six plates all stacked up.”

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Harrison Withers, illustration by Louise Fitzhugh, 1964.

 

I have a room just for cats too. The foster cats I bring in from the East Bay SPCA. They stay as long as they need to, then go back to the shelter to get ready for adoptions and then to forever homes. Is that crazy? Okay, the room is a mess, but it’s for a good cause. Look at momma cat Yuki and her babies!

 

Yes, I own more than one dress made out of a cat-print fabric.

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But I am a relatively normal, articulate, coherent person who functions in life, unlike the Crazy Cat Lady (Eleanor Abernathy) on The Simpsons, who does crack me up even if I question the cat tossing as part of the cat ladiness.

I own a Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure (thanks, Bob). My hair does sometimes look like that, and I have a penchant for wearing a stretched out gray cardigan sweater over my bathrobe (see Tim Gunn and Ruby Dee walk into a bar…). But it is warm and comfortable, and great for kitten snuggling.

 

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I love dogs too. In fact I love all animals. Except maybe banana slugs, which give me the creeps. But I stay out of their slow-moving way.

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There is a dog who lives with us. You might have met him. Einstein. He has his own Facebook page, and being a tireless self-promoter, he requested I put a link to it here so he can get more followers.

Einstein’s Facebook page

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I grew up with dogs; most of my family would consider themselves to be “dog people”. One of my favorite movies is Christopher Guest’s Best in Show.

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I do believe that, if there is a god, she does love a terrier.

 

I found this story of the origins of the term Crazy Cat Lady, and it goes back ancient cultures where cats were worshipped. Yes, worshipped. I was born too late!

The True Story Behind the Crazy Cat Lady Stereotype

In Japan, the maneki-neko, or beckoning cat, is a good luck charm.

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The whole negative spin on women and cats came about with the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum in 1487. Also known as Hammer of Witches, it was your guidebook to identifying witches, who could then be tortured, burned at the stake, etc. Because we wouldn’t want any independent-thinking women running around. (Remind you of a current someone with his Nasty Woman comment?) This was during the Reign of Terror of religious persecution in Europe. Not good times.  A good clue to identifying a witch–her association with cats. I guess I’d have been burned at the stake. It didn’t go well for the accused cats, either.

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From the 1555 Swedish guide to witches by Olaus Magnus. Witches with cats wreaking havoc.

Well, I think these days, Crazy Cat Ladies and Nasty Women are turning their pejorative titles into positive ones.

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And in the United States we might just end up with a presidential spouse (First Gentleman?) who happens to like cats, too.

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I suppose his title will actually be President Clinton and not First Gentleman.

I shall leave you with these awesome images of real men who love cats. If you want to call them Crazy Cat Men, go right ahead.