Len Robbins


My sense of taste was the first to go.

Someone gave me a mayonnaise sandwich years ago.

“This tastes like nothing,” I said, startled by the lack of flavor offered by the paste of white lard.

Next, it was my sense of hearing. It started failing me shortly after I got married, over 24 years ago.

“Len, can you come into the kitchen and wash these dishes for me?” My new wife called from across the house.


“Can you come wash these dishes?” This time, louder.


“Can you come wash ... oh, never mind.”

My hearing’s gotten so bad since then that I can only hear her when dinner is ready.

Then it was my sense of sight.

“I can’t read the scroll at the bottom of ESPN!,” I screamed in horror about 12 years ago. The next day, I went to the eye doctor and received a prescription for eyeglasses.

Of late, it’s been my sense of smell.

“Len, do you smell that?”

“Huh?” (hearing again).

In a semi-scream – “DO YOU SMELL THAT? Smells like a cat urinated in our closet,” my wife said, very concerned.

I stuck my head in the closet for a moment.

“Nope, I don’t see a cat,” I said. “But you must remember, my eyesight is rather poor unless I’m wearing my glasses... hey, why is my Mr. T signed portrait on the closet floor? I thought someone had stolen that from above the fireplace mantle.”

Basically, and it’s not COVID-related, but I no longer can smell much of anything. Or maybe I can, and everything smells like nothing these days.

I assume losing one’s olfactory senses is a sign of maturity. Then again, I could have just left something in my nose, like the time when I lost my pocket knife and hearing in my right ear in the same week. I found my pocket knife in the shower the following week, and miraculously began to hear again at the exact same moment. God is good.

This latest loss of sense is starting to become bothersome. The other day, I grabbed a carton of milk. Since I can no longer read the expiration date (loss of sight), I have become accustomed to smelling the milk to gauge its freshness. That’s no longer an option. I sat there for 10 minutes, wondering how to solve this vexing conundrum without an acute sense of smell. I suddenly realized that sour milk isn’t sour if you can’t taste anything, so I took a swig.

Twenty minutes later, my stomach, whose senses are still acute, didn’t appreciate that risk.

This loss of the scent sense has one exception: Smoke. I can’t smell the aroma of a rose or of feet, but I can smell a fire miles away, or feet away.

I walked in our house the other day and immediately noticed that familiar bouquet. I stood in the doorway and yelled toward our bedrooms upstairs.

“Are you burning your hair again?”

My meek hearing skills discerned a faint “Yes, I’m using the curling iron” from my daughter’s bedroom.

I walked outside the next morning to greet the day and that same faculty came alive.

“Something burned last night,” I said aloud, my nose perked up to the one essence it can acknowledge. Later that day, I learned there was a fire in our community the previous evening.

So, in summary: I can’t taste mayonnaise; I can only hear what I want to hear; I can only see what I want to see (with glasses); and I can’t smell malodorous stenches, but I can smell smoke, which can be quite beneficial.

OK, it’s official. I like growing older.

LEN ROBBINS’ syndicated newspaper column appears in more than 20 newspapers in the South. He and his wife and three children live in Homerville, Georgia (population: 2,890), next to the Okefenokee Swamp.

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