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"Too Old" For What?

We’ve been watching the Olympic Trials on TV.  I am particularly dazzled by the ability of gymnasts to do what they do.  Someone flips through a triple twist vault and sticks the landing—or suspends themselves interminably between rings in the air like an uber-muscular crucifix.  I lamely joke to the family watching with me that I’m now too old to do that any more—as though there were ever a day in my life when I was capable of anything more than a clumsy somersault. 

 

But there are some things I actually used to be able to do that I can’t do any more.  I used to run a few miles every morning.  Can’t do that any more.  I used to play tennis four or five times a week.  I can’t do that any more.  I used to control a pitching sailboat through stormy waters.  I can’t do that any more, either.

 

Just this morning, as Patti and I were enjoying our coffee on the porch watching a dozen birds feast at our feeders, a stiff warm breeze danced though the apple orchard—sometimes suddenly whipping the leaves wildly with heavy gusts.  I commented that this very windy day made me think of our decades of sailing the Maine coast—and how I realize I am really glad not to be out there on such a blustery day.  I am too old, too unstable afoot, too puny of upper body strength, too slow-witted in an emergency to competently manage a sailboat and a crew and guests while the winds and waves continually pitch the boat side to side, fore and aft, flailing the sails and jostling the people on board, challenging my ability to keep all and everyone—including myself—in balance.

 

I did it very competently for seventy years or so.  Now I am too old for that.

 

I am fortunate in a way that Joe Biden may not be.  I find it surprisingly easy to acknowledge when I am too old for something, and to let it go, to move on to something else.  While my family and other friends have always been remarkably enthusiastic in support of my various pursuits over the years, they seem equally supportive of my letting go of what I need to relinquish as I age, in order to assume new delights better suited to who I have become over the years.

 

The saddest moment of the evening last night was the post-debate “party” when Jill Biden chirped, “Joe, you answered every question!”  A kindergartener would have been offended by the patronizing gush of praise.  Adult Americans merely cringed and looked away, as if witnessing elder abuse.

 

Observers like to use “too old” as a verdict about someone else.  That is their privilege.  But “too old” is better seen as a question—a question for an individual to ask about themselves.  About themselves not only as an individual, but as a member of a human community.   His overprotective cortege may not speak the truth to him, but Joe Biden himself has had the benefit of witnessing one of the truly great Americans—RBG—fail to grasp this larger question.  He is not too old to learn from her tragic example.

 

 

 

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So sad that the democrats have not done a good job with succession planning. Obama and Biden should have done this. And a much better job representing their successes. Many are bipartisan. !! What a mess. !!!

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Thanks for your response, Christine. I can hardly imagine what this mess looked to you and others in Canada!

To your lament about succession planning--I am not certain that this was ever much of a reliable process in the U.S. in recent generations. The only "deliberate" candidate I can think of who was managed into the job was Ronald Reagan, the product of some very wily and wealthy L.A. folks who staged him through the governorship of California right into the Oval Office. Other than that, I think it's almost always been a self-starter movement ever since the smoke-filled room faded away at the start of the last century. But I'd be glad to be corrected on that impression. Any…

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Uncle Eliot, As always.... so much more eloquently said than I. All I could do last night was curl into the fetal position, take a walk with John while we talked about anything but the debate, manage my figurative/literal GI symptoms and fantasize about moving somewhere with a more truly representative government (modern day Germany where chancellors' power lies in consensus building). I am grateful for Biden's first term, AND resentful that I feel coerced into voting for him again this November. OF Course, we who share Democratic/democratic values will vote for almost anyone other than Conman Trump. Honest appraisal of our individual aptitudes is valuable at any age.

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I find myself realizing that this is actually the first "fateful" moment of my lifetime, in the sense that if Trump's "2025" plan is implemented (with the mind-bogglingly blatant cooperation of "his" Supreme Court), the country will never be the same again. On the assumption that Biden will refuse to step aside, my attention will shortly turn to how we must organize as a legal "resistance" to his treacheries. I'm glad that you and so many of your generation and our grandchildren's generation see what is happening and are prepared to fight for the memory of a republic.

Love you so much, Kim!

El

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Thanks, Eliot, for your honesty and humility! Because I cannot stomach the now far more likely threat of another Trump term, I am afraid it is time for Joe to step down. In spite of his far superior character and first term performance, he must not be allowed to play a delusional King Lear through the final months of what will surely be a very brutal campaign season. Among the obsequious Regans and Gonerils who prop up the powerful out of a (con)fusion of sentiment and ambition, is there anyone who will step up to play Cordelia or Fool to Biden's Lear? Allowing Biden to carry on in this role guarantees a Trump victory in November. Heaven help us all!

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A predictably fine and literate response,Tom. Thanks.


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I'm with you 99%, Eliot. Beautifull written and engaging. But I wish we could ditch "too old." Not strong enough, lack the energy, too unsteady. But as a measurement "too old" doesn't give us much information. (But, I have been known to say, "I've never been this old before" as I get into a sail boat.)

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I understand your reservation about "too old" but I was trying to convey that it is entirely a relative term--too old for what? The answer cannot be "everything"!

Cheers,

El

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I'm sitting with grief that we can't have the "real Joe" with us 100% for the next four years to steady the boat as we navigate these rough seas. We desperately need him now. But, we have to acknowledge that it's time to hand over the helm. God save us!


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