There is much to be said for longevity. A tongue and swiss on rye is certainly one of them. As is watching the Giants beat the Patriots or the throes of Downton Abbey. Relaxing in the sun reading Unbroken, The Glass Castle or Steig Larson is not bad either. Recently, however, I had a sort of epiphany that made me realize how lucky I am to be 86 with good health in mind and body.
My wife, Iris, was in Los Angeles for the weekend. My elder son, Peter, and my daughter-in-law, Annabella, took pity on lonely old me and drove me to their house in Connecticut for the weekend. Picture the three of us in the evening sitting in their living room before a crackling fire. Peter and I are reading. Annabella's laptop is on the top of her lap.
Peter is 59; Annabella a few years older. I notice the gray at Peter's temples. Suddenly, as in a vision of the future, I see the two of them 20 years hence -- an elderly couple relaxing by the fire.
Peter, my baby, my teenager, my tennis partner for 30 years, who now vigorously covers 90 percent of the court when we are doubles parfners. Peter -- old? I mean really old? Like me?
Yes, as I see the child in the man, I can see the elderly in the man, now strong in his middle years.
In the 16 years since I was 70, I have gone from young old to old old. A minor change compared to my two oldest grandchildren who have leapt from 12, to 28, from pre-teen to young adult, carving out careers and in relationships with marriage potential. I can easily see them as young parents pushing strollers.
My three youngest grandchildren -- 14, 12 and 10 -- were zero 16 years ago. Now it takes little imagination to see them at college.
How satisfying it is to feel rather stable while my family marches upward from stage to stage. And at the new stage, I visualize them at the stage beyond. This would not have worked for Bernie Madoff's dad, but it works for me.
I had a brother who at 90 used to complain, "I've lived too long. Please. God, take me. You have forgotten me." I never thought he meant it, but, in any case, I feel the opposite. I'd love to see Peter in the flesh as old, my older grandchildren actually pushing strollers, my younger ones actually in college.
What a treat that would be! Sure beats Downton Abbey. Whenever you come for me, God, I am not ready.
Oh, my brother? Not to worry. God took him at 92.