I recently mentioned 95 year-old Roger Angell’s compilation entitled “This Old Man” and the warming pleasure I derived from reading it. I mean, just knowing that a guy is successfully plying his trade at ninety-five is exhilarating. Should I reach that exalted plateau, I’d be happy to be able to find my mouth with a soupspoon. With the glimmering realization that I’m eating.
The highlight of the book is an essay to which I would accord immediate “classic” status, it’s “title offering” – arriving at the 91 percent juncture in my reading which is now almost exclusively on “Kindle” and that’s how they tell you where you are. I have no idea what page it begins on. That’s for actual book readers.
I shall provide today a sampling slice of Mr. Angell’s insightful and articulate chronicling of his current circumstances – which he composed at age ninety-three – as it rings an identifiable bell with what I am experiencing myself.
Here’s what he says about the conversational component of reaching your tenth decade, a situation in which you are there, but at the same time…
You can read this now or when you are ninety-three, when it’s applicable.
Read it at ninety. Just in case.
Okay, here it is.
“We elders - what kind of a handle is this, anyway, halfway between a tree and an eel - we elders have learned a thing or two, including invisibility. Here I am in a conversation with some trusty friends – old friends but actually not all that old: they’re in their sixties – and we’re finishing the wine and in serious converse about global warming in Nyack or Virginia Woolf the cross-dresser. There’s a pause, and I chime in with a couple of sentences. The others look at me politely, then resume the talk exactly at the point where they’ve just left it. What? Hello? Didn’t I just say something? Have I left the room? Have I experienced what neurologists call a T.I.A. – a transient ischemic attack? I didn’t expect to take over the chat but did await a word or two in response. Not tonight, though. (Women I know say that this began to happen to them when they passed fifty.) When I mention the phenomenon to anyone around my age, I get back nods and smiles. Yes, we’re invisible. Honored, respected, even loved, but not quite worth listening to anymore. You’ve had your turn, Pops; now it’s ours.”
Edging rapidly towards seventy-one, I am as yet not entirely ignored. However, when I carry on too long, I detect surreptitious glances towards I-Phones.
Word from an advance scout reveals that the situation gets worse.