"Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of
life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand
who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God:
See all, nor be afraid!'"
— Robert Browning
Browning wrote this, the life expectancy was a lot shorter than my
66 years. Back then the youthful half got us only to age 20.
can indulge in my happy illusion that the spring of our life lasts
'til 25, then summer until 50, then autumn until 75, when we start
moving into winter, waiting for the next incarnation. I myself am
not coming back until the national debt is paid off.
I'm getting old because I'm starting to escape in my mind to the
past. Was thinking this week about my college speech class, a
sophomore requirement. For my "teaching speech" I chose handwriting
analysis, and asked Miss Burns to write something on the blackboard
for me to analyze. She chose the Browning quote, above. It was the
first time I saw this, and I thought it was a charming thought for
the elderly teacher, though having nothing to do with me.
"humor speech" I told the story of a recent experience, in which my
friend Glenn and I had an accident while driving on an icy road and
were taken to the hospital, he with minor injuries, I with broken
ribs. For some reason, I found the hospital procedures hilarious,
and so did the class, which voted my speech the best.
So I was
sent to the regional speech conference, where I bombed. The judges
told me that when I intend to be funny, I must make my story
believable, not make things up that couldn't have happened. My
school friends knew that I was telling the truth and that my sense
of humor recognized the bizarre aspects of most experiences. The
strangers at the conference didn't get me.
was a lesson in this that should have kept me from becoming an
activist in the political arena, where one person's policy is
another man's joke.
back to the present: Maybe it's really not funny that the U.S.
Congress passed a trillion dollars in spending without reading the
bill, that the Treasury Secretary overseeing the bailouts (and the
IRS) was caught avoiding taxes, and that our governor's choice to
oversee Massachusetts' share of the federal billions has been
cheerfully participating in official state pension scams after being
fired from a state job.
trouble is, it's getting hard to tell when the evening news ends and
Jay Leno's opening monologue begins. When real life experience is
absurd, the comedy routine seems almost anticlimactic.
Activists, writers and economists and unusually concerned
politicians on my side of economic issues have always predicted what
President Obama calls "catastrophe" if government spending and debt
weren't controlled. But somehow I didn't expect it to happen 'til
after I was gone.
never been the kind of person who'd want to watch a train wreck, yet
I have to admit I would hate to have missed this one. As Robert
Browning also wrote: "How sad and bad and mad it was — But then, how
it was sweet."
the sense of being able to say, "I told you so."
childish statement in a young person, but a senior prerogative.
returned to the past again when I read last week about another
birthday. Miep Gies, who helped the family of Anne Frank hide above
her office during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, turned 100 years
old on Feb. 15. I played her in our college presentation of "The
Diary of Anne Frank." In the final scene, when I found Anne's diary
and gave it to her father — the only family survivor of the
concentration camps — I wasn't acting when I cried.
experience had a major influence on my political attitudes. Our
Jewish director made the cast experience Judaism during the
rehearsal weeks, even giving us a little Hannukah party. I hoped
that if I'd lived in Europe during World War II, I'd have been one
of the Righteous Gentiles who tried to help. All I'm required to do
today, however, is be a writer supportive of Israel against the
lucky my generation has been, comparatively. I was born at the end
of WWII, and my son came of age after Vietnam and the military draft
were done. We Americans were safe from war on our own soil, at least
until 9/11. The national economy has been strong for most of my
lifetime. My former husband and I bought a house before real estate
became unaffordable. I got to travel when airplane flights were fun.
Vaccines, cures and treatments have been found for so many diseases
that caused those earlier, shorter lifespans. And I'm the right age
to get Medicare and Social Security before all the funds are
Sixty-six years old, seeing all, grateful and determined not to be
afraid. Happy birthday to me.