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by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author’s program note. It was Lisa Martiniuk, one of the hard-working Senior Monitors who are such an important part of keeping worldprofit.com going strong, who first, and with a dollop of insinuation and pleading in her voice, suggested I write something a little lighter than my recent fare. And so I switched from the killing fields of Asia and Super-Typhoon Haiyan and the continuing self-afflicted wounds of the Right Honorable Barack. I would write, I vowed, about being a (new) senior citizen and I would (unlike my carping colleagues) forego the cheap shots and wide-ranging irritants of every kind; instead to write an article of uplift and bliss about the phase of life where I now find myself and shall remain for the hourly diminishing — and therefore the more precious — balance remaining.
To achieve this (frankly challenging) objective, I shall check the following words and attitudes at the door, along with my new cane. They may otherwise, you see, get in the way of my long-developing story. For whilst I am undoubtedly a new member of the club, I was not born yesterday. Without particularly noticing it, I have been studying senior citizens closely, ever since I had eyes in my head or the wit to discern what I saw…
Now, here are the words and attitudes I shall forego (just for the present, mind)… ornery, stubborn, adamant, pigheaded, mulish, inexorable, not to be put down, inflexible, immutable, peremptory, always right, never wrong… Further, and as a notable mark of my bona fides, I am turning my striking “Don’t Tread on Me” flag to the wall, but only for this single occasion, no precedent conceded or intended, buster. Have you got that?
For this voyage into the brand new land, I have selected a tune as quirky and idiosyncratic as most everyone is. It’s the score from the 1989 film “Driviing Miss Daisy” starring Morgan Freeman as Hoke Colburn with Jessica Tandy superbly cast as Miss Daisy. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture (Tandy the Best Actress), it is a film every senior citizen should be compelled to watch over and over again, especially if we epitomize the words and attributes listed above, as all us old folks do, specializing in the surly, churlish, selfish and (never forget this) the faultlessly clairvoyant and omniscient.
Go now to any search engine and find Hans Zimmer’s theme, deceptively simple and artless. Such songs become, if we let them, our favorite and most evocative songs of all, as this one has surely become for me. When you find yourself whistling, you’ll know it’s captured your heart, too, no matter how irascible you are. Miss Daisy, after all, was supremely irascible, too, until she permitted herself to thaw and (literally) enjoy the ride.
Driving Dr. Lant.
I was never very interested in trucks, tractors, or cars, much less their labyrinthine operating systems, tailor made, so it has always seemed to me, for maximum confusion and epic sessions of punishing frustration. I have a mechanical aptitude at the 5th percentile; translation, I can hardly tie my shoe laces… and whilst this is a perfectly valid and understandable excuse, it is of limited utility in the face of boisterous adolescent masculinity and the screwdrivers they love of every diabolical kind and type. I can feel the unwonted sweat of those trying days still dripping down my baffled face. And that is why I have Ame Joseph as my driver. I invariably call him “Mr. Joseph.” He calls me “Doctor Lant.” We have known each other for many years now, and so these formalities are these days a tradition, not a requirement.
How we met.
I am, like most people, afflicted with some degree of claustrophobia. Quite frankly, I intensely dislike being stuffed into anything, especially the back seats of taxis, which seem tailor made for panic attacks. Getting me into them, though I am the perfectly normal size of 5 foot ten inches and 165 pounds, often commands a shoe horn, with me twisting, squirming, unable to move. This, as you may well imagine, maddens and affronts me. It is, however, a stark reality for urban based folks like me who do not drive and rely on the never-clean-inside-or-out taxis with colorful names like yellow, red and green; the reality gray, mud spattered and grim.
Thus, when fate intervened (it had to be fate not merely random chance) and I found myself getting into a cab at the Sheridan Commander Hotel, a cab that was clean, hardly a speck of terra firma traveling with us, even the windows washed to clarity, I didn’t hesitate. “Give me your card, I shall be calling you again.” And that is how God works in the city….
The narrowing of life, to be fought with rage and determination.
Now… turn up that quirky theme music from the score of “Driving Miss Daisy,” because you see, we are going out you and I… and Mr. Joseph is taking us, for of course you’ll be traveling with me, my way… it goes like this. “Mr. Joseph, are you free in 20 minutes?” And thus begins that most important of travels… the one that whisks you to a new reality, comfortably, efficiently, with just the necessary touch of condescension, for we have earned that, haven’t we, over these many years and the thousand roles we have played from the very moment of conception.
Mr. Joseph calls me when he is 4 minutes away (note that precise number). I always say I am ready to go just then…. but I almost never am. There is just one more phone call to make… one more thing I really must peruse. But at last even I am ready, cap a jaunty angle, silver buttons gleaming on my coat… and the cane left behind, the cane I so recently acquired, have used not at all. Its time will come, even I know that… but not today, not today…. Today we have each other for I have ever been of an affectionate disposition, never hoarding that which exists to be abundantly, even profligately shared in the hope that such excess will be given to me… and I am glad to say it generally is.
As we glide along the highly polished flagstone floor in the lobby, Mr. Joseph glides above, along the newly paved streets, brick sidewalks perfectly tailored, all marks that I live in that boom town of Cambridge, where being the hub of the Internet means citizens like me live better and better for less and less, an astonishing situation in this year of our Lord 2013, and one that makes me light up with smile and song with or without the slightest provocation… as when Mr. Joseph, suitably attired in black, is standing ready at the door of his Lincoln Town Car, prepared to supply supremely expert service.
Thus is one of the great problems of aging, immobility and shrinking vistas, superbly solved. I can go hither and yon, the world still full of adventures large and small, still expanding, not closing in on me, prospects dwindling, the beginning of the beginning of the end. All this, too, has been postponed, perhaps forever and therein lies the greatest bliss of all, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness still my birthright and objective, eminently possible, not just memories of days long gone and bittersweet.
Don’t keep your future waiting…
So, now get in. “The last of life for which the first was made” is waiting for you just around the corner. And despite every pain, each imperfection, whatever you have lost, whatever you fear losing next you are still that charmer of old, an eye full of mischief, capable of astonishing capers…. the most outrageous and notable not even dreamed yet, much less exhausted. You, diminished as you claim to be, are still the radiant being who can, given your ardent permission, awe us all, and most of all awe yourself. Make today the day you do…it’s been far too long since you recognized you are the finest creation of your life… and it’s time the world got the privilege of seeing your masterpiece in every glorious aspect. Right now. Don’t waste another minute… even if you have to use the cane…
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