I enjoyed turning 83 on July 15, 2014. Nedra and I celebrated with a dinner out (including a margarita with two straws) and she baked my favorite cake – an almond cake with a crispy icing and studded with raspberries. That takes the edge off the reality of old age with its multiple insults of a less effective body; a feeling of being marginalized by the rush of the present and the recession of the past into history; and a foreboding of a truncated future. That marginalization came to me when I learned my Life Lines column would shift from every other week to once a month. I can’t complain because I have done that column for 17 years (over 400 articles) and I am grateful it will continue in its monthly schedule. But what it tells me is that nothing lasts. Culture constantly changes. It would be delusional to think of writing a column in the style of Montaigne, or Francis Bacon, or Addison and Steele, or Thomas Paine or T H Huxley. A new generation seeks a new way of saying things as it proves with introducing jazz then swing, then rock and roll, then rap. In my life time I wrote letters avidly in my youth, did not use a telephone until I was in my 30s, wrote my first books with a fountain pen, shifted to a typewriter, and did not use a computer until the late 1980s. Now I look at the doings of my relatives, friends, and former students on Facebook. I regularly use email. But I do not Text or Tweet and I have resisted getting a cell phone so I can enjoy privacy while walking or visiting. I have experienced at least four generations so I have seen lots of changes in culture. The experience is like driving an old car. It eventually becomes elevated in status as an antique car (especially if lovingly restored) instead of being seen as a tin lizzy.
I enjoyed reading The 100 Year Old Man Who Crawled out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It makes sport of history and politics and its hero, Alan Karlsson, is like Inspector Clouzot in the Pink Panther films. I wish aging were as humorous or as free of decrepitude as the novel portrays it. But wouldn’t it be a dreary world to live without some illusions?