A funny thing happened while I was watching the Green Bay-San Francisco NFL playoff game Saturday night. (Unfortunately little of what happened on the field was humorous, so let’s not get into that.) I was in the bar at a neighborhood restaurant, rooting for my Packers, when a woman came up to me and said, “I have so much admiration for you!”
I looked at this unknown woman, puzzled, thinking perhaps she had read Incomplete Passes. But she went on, “It’s wonderful that you’re still so into this!”
I've been known to imitate Clay Matthews' signature move. Image from sports.gunaxin.com.
Indeed, I’d been yelling loudly, and she probably saw me imitate Clay Matthews’ Predator move when Matthews registered a sack. “Of course I’m into this!” I said. “I grew up in Green Bay.”
“It’s great that you’ve been doing this for so long!” the woman reiterated. I stifled the urge to pitch my memoir, thanked her and continued to watch the game.
The next morning my friend Del, whom you may have met in Incomplete Passes, sent me, Carla, and Pam an e-mail letter. Del has moved, at least temporarily, from California to Florida to serve as a companion for her mother, Mary. Del told us that Mary has a new interest. “She decided the other day that we (meaning me) should redo my room and is now all excited about it. Move the king bed into the twin bed room, get rid of the twin beds, buy a new queen for me, redo the carpet, paint, etc. It is crazy. And, of course, it all needs to be done immediately.”
Carla promptly wrote back, “I am glad your mother still has the ambition to take on big projects, good for her!” I realized that Carla was talking about Mary the same way the woman in the bar talked about me. But Mary is around ninety. Just how old did this woman think I was?
When I was quite young, in my teens or early twenties, I read a novel about an elderly man. It’s the work of a famous author, and I’m sorry to say I can’t remember its title or who wrote it. The protagonist was in his eighties, and I think his name was Daniel. (If you know the book, please enlighten me.) What stuck with me was Daniel’s saying, “I don’t feel like a man of eighty. I feel like a man of twenty who has something terribly wrong with him.”
In other words, Daniel’s body had changed, but he felt the same inside as he did in his youth. This idea blew my mind at the time, but over the decades I have found it true.
In fact, I’d take it a step farther. I would say people of my generation are actually younger than our parents were at the same chronological age.
Look at these pictures of my mother and me. Ignore Mom’s outdated hairstyle and focus on her features. Don’t I look about the same at 62 as she did at 54?
Mom at 54
Me at 52
Me at 62
I’m generalizing, of course, but many of the baby boomers had easier lives than their parents did, with modern conveniences and no Great Depression. Medical advances have lengthened our life spans and kept us active. Increased leisure time has allowed us to focus on keeping fit—and on interests that go beyond our original careers. And so we are younger at our present ages than our parents were.
In the course of marketing Incomplete Passes, I’ve connected with other authors, and found a surprising number who published their first books when they were sixty or older, just as I did. Bibliophiles have begun to recognize a whole school of baby boomer literature, most of it written by actual boomers and most of it recent. And writers can’t be the only ones. This has to be taking place in other fields, as boomers learn new skills and establish second careers.
For her generation, I think Del’s mother is an exception, a terrific one. Despite severely limited vision, Mary still enjoys travel and scored a hole-in-one in golf last year. She’s a contrast to my own mother and uncle, whose lives literally shut down once they were no longer able to work at their jobs. This happened to Mom in her early sixties, her brother Sam in his early seventies.
I don’t think it will happen to us. I think we’re going to be a generation of youthful Marys. I welcome the adventures that lie ahead.