The face on an old man.

Ramesh Nyberg

Old-timers and Old Guy Moments

When you retire from law enforcement these days, there is usually some other occupation waiting for you on the other side. If there isn’t, there should be. I say this for two reasons: 1) It’s damn expensive to live these days and living beats the hell out of the alternative; and 2) it’s just good for you to do something. Yes, retire from your job; just don’t retire from doing things because, well – and we’ve seen it over and over again – your heart will think it’s retirement time, too.

I pulled the pin on November 30, 2006. I was all of 48 years old. I’ve stayed busy; I got my real estate license; and I enjoy a life which has more hustle in it than sitting and watching TV or playing video games. But, that’s me, and some people prefer vegetating. I just never liked the idea of thinking of myself as an “old guy.” I don’t feel that way (well, on some days, yeah) and I do things which force me to be energetic.

For the past few years, a wonderful guy named Norm, who retired about the same time I came into police work (in 1979), has been hosting a lunch for retired guys and gals from the department. He calls it the gathering of the “Knights of the Brown Gown.” You see, our uniforms were a light brown shirt and dark brown trousers which we used to call the “brown gown.” Norm sent out these long, funny E-mail invitations and, several times, he called me asking when I was going to attend one. I kept saying I would, and I wanted to, but things (mostly work) kept getting in the way. Finally, just a couple of weeks ago, I made it. It was at an Italian restaurant just west of Fort Lauderdale and there must have been about 25 of us “old-timers” there. Damn, I thought, looking around the room. I’m an old-timer. There were guys there with canes and hearing aids, and I, at 61, was one of the youngest pups in the room.

Norm stood up and said, “People ask me why I put together these lunches. And, the reason is that, one day, we’ll be at each other’s funerals. The worst thing that can happen is for us to be standing there thinking, ‘We should have had lunch.’ ”

He’s right. It was really great being there and seeing probably eight or ten people I hadn’t seen in years. Many others, from Norm’s generation of cops, I never even knew. There were also retired medical examiners and other nonpolice people there. Norm introduced several of them and, to my surprise, Dr. Richard Souviron was in attendance. Souviron was the forensic dentist who conducted the bite mark comparisons in the Ted Bundy murder cases from Florida State University in the 1970s. I remembered reading his excellent book, Dead Men DO Tell Tales; perhaps, the most well-written book on forensic investigation I have ever read. I decided I had to go over and say something to him. So, in between the salad and the main course, I went over and introduced myself. He smiled and shook my hand.

“Dr. Souviron, I have to tell you, your book, Dead Men DO Tell Tales, was really excellent. Best book I’ve read on forensics.”

“Oh!” he said, “Wow…well, thank you.” He looked up at me with a strange look. The book had come out in the 1980s. He probably didn’t get many people complimenting it anymore.

After I went back over to my seat, I started thinking about other forensic experts who had written books and the name William Maples, a forensic anthropologist from the University of Florida, had written one, too. Then, it hit me: Maples, not Souviron,had written Dead Men DO Tell Tales! Oh, good grief! I sat staring into my iced tea and lamenting. This was an immense faux pas. Or was it? I mean, it wasn’t a negative. It was just….embarrassing. I had an “old guy” moment, to be sure. Later, after everyone had just about finished their entrees, I went back over.

“Thank you,” I told Souviron, “for being a gentleman. I just realized that Bill Maples wrote that book.”

Souviron chuckled, “Yeah, I didn’t want you to feel embarrassed.”

“If you had written a book,” I said, “It would have been a dandy.” And, all was well.

Being an “old guy” has its perks. You get to go to Knights of the Brown Gown lunches and kibitz with other old-timers and catch up. It’s nice. And, so what if you mess up every once in a while? There were several people there who were struggling to remember names, but Norm doesn’t like the idea of those “Hello, my name is______” stickers.

Souviron probably thinks I’m the biggest Alpha Hotel on the planet, because –guess what – he did write a book. It’s called Dental Autopsy. “Sometimes,” the old saying goes, “it is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.” Aw, heck, Souviron coauthored the book. So, I’m only half an idiot. It’s all good, as the young ones say today.

Before the Knights lunch, I got some really good “old guy” news. My son and his wife, who live in Seattle, sent me a short video on Facebook Messenger (yes, I know how to use it). It was a fuzzy little shape on a screen, accompanied by a noise which sounded like a distant steam locomotive heading down the tracks.

It was an ultrasound image of my grandchild, who had just recently made his presence known to my daughter-in-law. Towards the end of August, he (or she) will make a grand arrival to the outside world.

So, you mess up at a luncheon and can’t remember stuff sometimes. So, you can’t find your glasses and they are on your head. But, when you get a little video like that from your kids, this “old guy” stuff can be pretty damn wonderful.

Ramesh Nyberg retired from law enforcement in November 2006 after 27 years in police work. He now owns his own private investigation agency, Nyberg Security and Investigations, and can be reached at Ramesh@NybergPi.com. He enjoys getting feedback from readers.