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Birthday sparks thoughts on aging



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May 13, 2014 | 03:13 PM
With a birthday this month I can now proclaim: “Four score and seven years ago...”

Let’s face it, I’m overdue to examine elderhood. A look at various impressions of aging may allow useful patterns to emerge.

Some would save the best for last, but not this time.

How could old age be better expressed than this:

“Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?”

That’s Shakespeare (Henry IV, Part II). So we’ll just string together what various minds have expressed over time about aging.

Someone has said wrinkles are the service stripes of life.

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I have far more of those than I ever earned in the Navy and the Army.

Ben Franklin stated the basic dilemma of aging: “All would live long, but none would be old.”

Attitude has to be involved. Witness: “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Jazz pianist Eubie Blake said that at 100.

Statesman and adviser to presidents Bernard Baruch once said, “To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.” I don’t know how old he was when he said that, but he lived to be 95.

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As the 17th century Frenchman La Rochefoucauld declared, “Few people know how to be old.”

On the other hand, “There is many a good time played on an old fiddle.” No one seems to know where that originated.

I wonder how old poet Robert Frost was when he said, “I never dared be radical when young / For fear it would make me conservative when old.”

I relate to both premises, but I’m not sure why.

As playwright Tom Stoppard remarked, “Age is a high price to pay for maturity.”

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Another observant Frenchman noted: “The old repeat themselves and the young have nothing to say. The boredom is mutual.”

American critic and poet Malcolm Cowley must have been an elder when he observed: “They tell you that you’ll lose your mind when you grow older. What they don’t tell you is that you won’t miss it very much.”

Quick: We could use a lighter touch: “Senescence begins / And middle age ends, / The day your descendants / Outnumber your friends.” Wouldn’t you know, Ogden Nash, noted for sophisticated whimsy and satire, would have his say.

But truth to tell, “No wise man ever wished to be younger,” so declared English satirist Jonathan Swift.

American Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. seems to have agreed: “To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.”

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“It is always in season for old men to learn.” That thought echoes through the ages from the Greeks (Aeschylus). And truth to tell, it encourages me to keep going.

The seasons do play into our lives. Autumn helps us appreciate the cycle of life. “How beautifully the leaves grow old. How full of light and colour are their last days.” (John Burroughts)

To make an end to this, the autumn metaphor never seems to fail.

Someone named Sandy Wilson put these lines together: “It’s never too late to have a fling / For autumn is just as nice as spring / And it’s never too late to fall in love.”

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