Here's looking at you.

Fall 2014: 

"Old man look at your life. I'm a lot like you." Neil Young, Old Man

What is it to be old?

Wisdom does not come easily. Shakespeare well knew. The oldest of King Lear's daughters, Goneril said of her father, "Old fools are babes again." And so we are, wishing to be young again.

A man getting old need look no further than his wife and children, now grown, for a reality check. A "cranky old man" they say. The father struggles with this, for his is, he thinks, neither old, nor cranky, and no one's fool.

The "old" man was born in North Carolina, a happenstance, for his father  was on his way to a new military post when the time came to enter this world. His mother's parents met in France during World War I, the grandfather a young lieutenant, the grandmother a French girl from Graffigny. Their meeting was the product of his wounds in battle and her duties as nurse, another happenstance.

On his father's side, the grandfather came from England and snuck into the United States by way of Canada, going to Chicago, then Texas, then Arizona. He was on his way to riches during the twenties, having bought apartments to rent, when the Great Depression came along, and deprived him of everything he owned.

The old man's father was at the University of Arizona on December 7, 1941, studying to become a forest ranger in a state that had few forests. He left college for the Pacific and fought in the Philippines with Douglas MacArthur when he returned, as promised. He was then poised to enter Japan with the invasion when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war. The morality of this act of destruction and salvation has long troubled the old man.

As for my all too brief life, I studied business, then law, went in the military, like my father and my mother's father before me, went on to the Department of Justice, left for private practice, then changed course radically, going into the furniture business where I remain.

I now live in Wichita, Kansas, but I am often gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment