Friday, April 19, 2019

Some thoughts on god, growing old, and not growing old.

It takes a lot, I'll admit, to get me to think about god. But I thought about god last night.

Not the god of the bible and other children's books. Not the white-haired and long-bearded stern-visaged god you see in Renaissance paintings and greeting cards. But a different kind of god.

Someone--it could be someone close or someone distant--it could be someone who just appears in your life with no notice, and that person delivers something that is wholly wise, wholly unexpected and, yes, wholly god-like.

I'm out in San Diego now, visiting my younger daughter, Hannah who's a Master's student at the Marine Science Institute at Scripps. 

Last night as I was waiting for my wife's luggage to come by on the baggage carousel I saw a well-dressed older woman. She was short and frail, and she looked at the bags spinning by and she was fretting.

"Do you need some help?" I asked her.

"I don't know how I'll get my bag," she answered. "It's bigger than I am."

She pointed to it as it was conveying by. I used the not-inconsiderable muscle in my arm and yanked it off for her. I set it down and extended the handle, so she could roll it away.

She looked at me with soft, warm eyes, and extended her arms wide. She hugged me.

I was a bit flustered. I'm not used to being hugged in airports. Anywhere, for that matter.

"Happy holidays," I stammered.

She examined me with those eyes. 

"Maybe Happy Passover," she inquired.

"Just maybe," I answered.

We both laughed and she said, "Chag Sameach," a traditional Jewish holiday greeting. And we went our separate ways.

That was a little touch of deity.

Later that evening, I got another touch.

Really from out of the blue--from the living heavens, maybe--I got an email from my first boss, Marshall Karp. The subject line hit me between the eyes. It said, initial caps and all, "Don't Let The Old Man In."

Here's what the email said:
"Despite your best efforts I don’t think of you as an old man.  And I’m trying not to think of myself as one either.  As Toby Keith wrote: Ask yourself how old would you be If you didn't know the day you were born. 
"Hence this piece below that I’m sending to the so-called old men in my life. 
"When Toby Keith met Clint Eastwood, the actor invited the country singer to partner up with him at a golf tournament.   
"As they were playing Eastwood said, “I turn 88 on Monday.”  Keith asked how he planned to celebrate.  Eastwood said, “I’m going to shoot a movie.” 
"Keith was in awe.  “What keeps you going?” he asked. 
"Eastwood replied, 'I get up every day, and I don’t let the old man in.' 
"Keith went home and spent the next two days turning that piece of wisdom into a song.  The movie Eastwood shot and starred in is “The Mule,” and Keith sings the song during the closing credits."

I'll be the first to concede that I have something of a lugubrious mien. That's a fancy way of saying I can be a gloomy son-of-a-bitch. 

Some people, in the words of Lady Gaga, are born that way. I was one of them.

Some people see the glass half-empty. I don't see a glass at all. I figure it's been smashed by a vandal, or stolen by a thief, or appropriated by a soak-the-poor tax-collector.

And being a generation older than everyone I work with, that doesn't help either. My skin crawls every time someone calls me dude, or bro. 

The worst is when they call me Yoda. (If that's not passive aggressive ageism...)

But Marshall is right.

I'm not old.

I'm faster, harder-working, funnier and a whole lot of other
-ers, than just about anyone. As A.J. Liebling used to say, "I can write better than anyone who can write faster, and faster than anyone who can write better."

They might see me as old. Or want to consider me old. Or disparage me as old. Maybe that makes them feel good and powerful.

But fuck 'em. (In an anodyne, politically-correct, HR-approved way.)

I'm not letting the old man in.

And they'll have to drag me out of here.

It'll take four or five of them.

I'm a big guy.


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