I started collecting admirably-graceful older people last year, in Bioethics, to balance an equation that usually focuses on dysfunction among the elderly. People like Jimmy Carter and the late Stewart Udall
topped the list.
In March, after researching this year’s presentation for the Baseball in Literature and Culture Conference and visiting the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame and Museum in KC, I added the amazing Buck O’Neill to this list.
Here are two more.
Roger Angell, himself a Hall of Famer for his baseball writing in the New Yorker, and editor-extraordinaire for John Updike and other literary lights, wrote one of the most heartening things ever about growing old.
Recent and not so recent surveys (including the six-decades-long Grant Study of the lives of some nineteen-forties Harvard graduates) confirm that a majority of us people over seventy-five keep surprising ourselves with happiness. Put me on that list. Our children are adults now and mostly gone off, and let’s hope full of their own lives. We’ve outgrown our ambitions. If our wives or husbands are still with us, we sense a trickle of contentment flowing from the reliable springs of routine, affection in long silences, calm within the light boredom of well-worn friends, retold stories, and mossy opinions. Also the distant whoosh of a surfaced porpoise outside our night windows. “This Old Man“
is only 65, but he’s been dealing with Parkinson’s for years. “Sometimes I feel like a scout from my generation, sent out ahead to experience in my 50s what even the healthiest boomers are going to experience in their 60s, 70s and 80s.”
We appreciate the reconnaissance, Michael, but why so modest? Why stop in the 80s? The example of your positive attitude and laughter, if not your condition, should keep many of us ticking into nonagenerian and even centenarian territory.
Ultimately, there’s no substitute for good genes and the healthier years they bring. But there’s no substitute for a wink and a smile, either.
7 am/5:38, 62/72/52, 7:49
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