Printed from:

Welcome to Columbia Magazine  

Chuck Hinman: IJMA. The Old Gray Mare... and Mary

Chuck Hinman: The Old Gray Mare (She Ain't What She Used To Be) and Mary. Chuck lets his feelings about his age related infirmities hang out for everyone to see and is reminded of his worth by a young cancer survivor.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Half-Soles -- Remember Them

By Chuck Hinman

The Old Gray Mare (She Ain't What She Used To Be)

Hi Ruth and Joan (and others):

I didn't realize it showed -- my self-imposed 'exile from the world' -- that is. But with inquiries from friends like you two (and some others) hopefully I am on the way back from my 'funk.'

I better explain that so you won't think, "Oh, it's worse than we thought."

Two reasons for Chuck's funk

No. 1 -- I think I am suffering from an accumulation of frustrations brought on by my vision problems. It's strange that as hard as I try to not let it 'get me down' that it does get me down, and when I'm down on my hands and knees patting the floor looking for a dropped hearing aid (that doesn't work anyhow) that I lose it and wind up in tears -- ME, unflappable Chuck Hinman.

No. 2 -- It's an emotional letdown after viewing the DVD of 'my big day' [my farewell organ concert] and being exposed to the truth that I am a fat old man -- whose hands shake, who can't see, and because he can't hear he has to set the registrations on the organ so low they sound like mud to normal people.

Wonderful as it was, 200 old friends gathered to see me do something I can't do anymore. How unfair to them!

Chuck decides not to share himself with the world

In the days shortly after the DVD viewing I made probably some pessimistic decisions about my worth in my surroundings. I hastily decided to 'cut back,' 'hole-up,' and not 'share myself with the world.' And I don't like that decision at all. It ain't me and never will be me!

I stopped writing; I rarely played the organ; I found easy excuses for canceling out of things I love doing, like playing bridge, going to church, etc.; I have given away all my music; I'm trying to get Paul and Kasi to hasten the day when they take my organ and piano, etc., etc., etc.

People are missing the things Chuck usually does

But what is getting to me is when people like you say, "Hey -- we have been missing your writing; is something wrong?" Or as on the crowded lunch-time express elevator, a concerned lady said, "I've been missing your organ playing -- is something wrong?" I tried to change the subject with "Don't you get tired of those same old songs?" To which she responded, "Not if you don't mind playing those same old songs for us same old people." It brought tears to my eyes when I made eye contact with all the white-haired smiling people on the elevator and they were smiling their approval.

Chuck is back and feeling better about himself

Yesterday afternoon I returned to my bridge club after a few weeks hiatus from sensing I was a burden to card playing because of my vision problems. I guess someone knew I needed something and guess what. I won first place over 6 tables or 24 players. Now I have an old problem of arrogance to deal with. J_ Oh me -- oh my!

In conclusion -- I'm back and I have a better feeling about myself. Now, aren't you sorry you brought it up?

Chuck Hinman
Writer's Note: The above is an actual personal email sent on 18 June 2009 which I am re-releasing as a story with the title "The Old Gray Mare." Editor's Note: About a month later Chuck sent out this short follow-up.

The following is an email I received yesterday from Mary. You will soon see why it 'made my day':
From: Mary
Sent: Monday, July 13, 2009 11:11 PM
Subject: Re: 181 - The Old Gray Mare

I get so down sometimes because of physical limitations -- but I cannot understand how frustrating it must be to be almost blind! However, you might be almost blind and deaf but you are not the least bit senile. I thank God for your mental clarity and thank you for writing - it blessed my life. Mary
Chuck had let feelings about age-related infirmities hang out

The above email from Mary, one of my reader friends, was written as a commentary on a piece I wrote a few weeks ago under the title "The Old Gray Mare - (ain't what she used to be)."

In that piece, I did something I rarely do. I let my feelings about my age related infirmities hang out for everyone to see. I had just seen a DVD of myself and it wasn't what I had pictured myself to be. Here was this "fat, old, deaf and dumb, blind man trying to prove to his hoards of gathered friends that nothing had changed, that he (me) could still 'cut the mustard'."

After viewing the DVD, I was totally undone and decided to drop out of sight including writing which keeps me going when everything else has 'gone to pot.'

Unexpected encouragement causes change for the better

Unexpected encouragements like this from Mary, cause me to rethink my self-worth and have a motive to 'keep on, keepin' on.'

Thanks Mary

(Mary is a young cancer survivor and is an inspirer to her large circle of friends including me. GO MARY!)

Editor's Note: The above is slightly edited. The title here is referencing an old folk song:
Oh, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be.
The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Many long years ago.
Many long years ago, many long years ago.
The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Many long years ago.

The old gray mare, she kicked on the whiffletree,
Kicked on the whiffletree, kicked on the whiffletree
The old gray mare, she kicked on the whiffletree
Many long years ago.
Many long years ago, many long years ago,
The old gray mare, she kicked on the whiffletree
Many long years ago.

This story was posted on 2014-04-06 01:06:20
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.

To sponsor news and features on ColumbiaMagazine, please use our contact form.


Quick Links to Popular Features content is available as an RSS/XML feed for your RSS reader or other news aggregator.
Use the following link:

Contact us: Columbia Magazine and are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.
Phone: 270-250-2730 Fax: 270-751-0401

Please use our contact page, or send questions about technical issues with this site to All logos and trademarks used on this site are property of their respective owners. All comments remain the property and responsibility of their posters, all articles and photos remain the property of their creators, and all the rest is copyright 1995-Present by Columbia! Magazine and D'Zine, Ltd. Privacy policy: use of this site requires no sharing of information. Voluntarily shared information may be published and made available to the public on this site and/or stored electronically. Anonymous submissions will be subject to additional verification. Cookies are not required to use our site. However, if you have cookies enabled in your web browser, some of our advertisers may use cookies for interest-based advertising across multiple domains. For more information about third-party advertising, visit the NAI web privacy site.