Time and tide


There were two more this week – former First Lady Nancy Reagan and legendary Beatles producer George Martin. Mrs. Reagan, I didn’t like, but I was still impressed by the array of people who showed up for her funeral, including President and Mrs. Bush, Rosalyn Carter, Michele Obama, and even Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer. As for George Martin, I’d long thought of him as a genius – the man who lifted to greatness such songs as “Yesterday,” “A Day in the Life” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but I all of think of this week was 1) OK, I was just starting high school when The Beatles split up, but still 2) George Martin was 90 years old? 90?!

Friends and I have talked about which celebrity deaths would be front-page news and probably the lead story in The New York Times. I’m talking about folks who die of old age, not your John Lennon and Princess Diana-types who die suddenly and way before their times. I’d say the Pope and Queen Elizabeth and Fidel Castro and the Dalai Lama, for sure, and all of the former presidents — Carter, Bush, Bush and Clinton.

After that, it’s a mish-mosh of names, possibly consigned to the bottom of the front page, some of them possibly “above the fold:” Muhammad Ali, Little Richard, Warren Buffett, Chuck Berry, Willie Mays, David Rockefeller, Kirk Douglas, I.M. Pei., Billy Graham, Dick van Dyke, Dan Rather, Hank Aaron, Doris Day, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Betty White, Barbara Bush, Ralph Branca, Gloria Vanderbilt, Hugh Hefner, the other Pope who’s still alive, Tony Bennett, Sidney Poitier, Jerry Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Neil Simon…You get the idea….There are dozens and dozens more.

But I’m at the age when the deaths of ordinary, run-of-the-mill celebrities – sometimes even “celebrities” in quotes – have made me very aware of the passage of time. George Martin was one of those. But I was also just a little disturbed to learn of the deaths of Pat Harrington, the handyman from “One Day at a Time;” David Bowie, of course, but also Keith Emerson from Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson, both of the Airplane; Frank Gifford; E.L. Doctorow; Leonard Nimoy; Leslie Gore; and, oh my God, Abe Vigoda, and Donna Douglas, who played Ellie Mae on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and even – how could it be? – Yvonne Craig, the original Batgirl on TV.

Part of this, I suppose, is that I’m afflicted with baby boomer syndrome. When Roger Daltrey sang “Hope I die before I get old,” I guarantee you that he didn’t think he’d ever really get old. The youth culture really started with my generation, and now my generation is getting old. We used to read the birth announcements, the graduation announcements, the help-wanted ads, the wedding announcements. Now, just like our mothers and fathers before us, we read the obituaries, and shudder just a little when we realize the people our age – and younger – can and will die. Which is a real bummer.




A bad case of senior-itis?

I guess we might be talking about a double-edged sword — I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

If I do complain, I run the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man. If I don’t complain, then I won’t be able to bring to light this ridiculous, ludicrous, preposterous, all-the-other-ouses notion that people fifty years old and older are SENIOR CITIZENS.

That latest example of this outrageous assertion: A National Public Radio piece on how there’s been a remarkable spike in the past few years in participation in online social networking (i.e., Facebook) by seniors AGE FIFTY AND OLDER.

You know what I have to say about that?




My mother is 78 years old. She is a senior citizen.

Here’s a photo of me.

Is this the face of a senior citizen? (and you’d better give the correct answer)

Here’s a photo of a real senior citizen:

OK? Are we clear on this?

The blame, of course, can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which made a really smart decision when it decided that it couldn’t focus all its attention on true senior citizens, who can be expected to die off at the usual semi-rapid senior-citizen pace. So AARP wisely decided to focus on pre-senior citizens and trying to cultivate interest among those still young and vibrant folks an interest in issues they would face when they someday became senior citizens — in, say, about thirty years.

Somehow, though, that smart marketing notion was mutated horribly into the notion that people AGE 50 AND OLDER are defined as senior citizens.

OK, here’s the rule of thumb we are all going to follow from now on. Age 65, technically you’re a senior citizen because you can collect Social Security. The reality, thanks to the still vibrant vibe of the baby boomer generation just now settling into their ergonomic-design rocking chairs, is that old fogie-ness probably begins at about age 75 — reach that age and beyond, then you just have to face facts: You’re old!

In these modern times, someone who reaches the age of fifty is NOT anywhere near being a senior citizen.

So here’s one last warning: Anyone who disagrees had better not come anywhere near me — or run the risk of having me whack you in the kneecap with my goddamned cane.

Hello in there…

She’s nearly 90, but still she’s filled with vim and vinegar. She’s got spunk to spare — no way she’s going to hang around with old people;  she’d much rather be home  sipping a martini and playing cards and smoking cigarettes while Dean Martin croons on the hi-fi.  But she’s got to be so lonely…

Three white-haired ladies look out the front lobby window and wonder if it’s as cold outside as it  seems…A receptionist barks “Turn your TV lower!”…Folks gather for meals a half-hour early because meals break the monotony of each dull day…”At least one person dies every week,” she tells us…Her face lights up when she sees you, when she sees she has visitors…I feel the surrender, the sadness, the dying…I don’t think I could face up to such loneliness…and I pray to God you never will.

As we sit and talk with her, I hear the old Paul Simon song:

And this sad but beautiful song by John Prine:

We’ve got to visit her again, sometime soon…