When I was 80, I wrote a personal memoir. This is what I said about old age:
"I am an old man. Eighty has got to be old. But, if in good health with all the joints and the brain working, what is the big deal?"
Now, at 87, I wouldn't say that today. I don't just know I'm old because of a number. It's in me bones. I walk slowly and gingerly, I go up and down stairs, one careful step at a time, hearing aids keep me partially in the conversation, I have trouble covering one half of a doubles court, I have had a heart attack and always with me are nitroglycerin pills in case I have another. Oh, and my kidneys are functioning at 25%.
My thoughts are different too. I am less goal oriented. Survival seems goal enough. I just went to my 70th Andover reunion. Fourteen of us out of a class of 180. And looking like the remnants of the confederate army 50 years after Gettysburg. Canes and walkers. No competitive feeling of superiority here. I am one of them.
I walked all over the majestic and once merciless campus. Anxieties and fears that had followed me into maturity seemed to melt away. Yes, that is a good thing.
I observe, scrutinize, dissect my old age -- something I never did at any other age. Why is that? Is it because of changes? Is it because death is around the corner? I was the baby of my family. Now I am the only one of my generation still breathing.
As in most things, there are compensations. I regard myself as a patriarch and I like that.
When Iris comes home, she always shouts,"I'M HOME!" Yes, you are, and all the stability, all the pleasure, all the love comes marching in.
As a state of the union address, this would not pass muster. Too many bits and pieces, chads hanging. I can fashion a coherent, pleasing essay. But, at 87, I just put down parts of the puzzle. I don't bother to interlock them.
And perhaps that is a good thing too.