Of funerals and fun
Last weekend, I was in the produce aisle of Hannaford market when I got a pointed suggestion from one of my favorite readers.
No, it was not one of the three online musketeers who chided me for failing to note that Hunter Biden’s mysterious laptop contains treasonous information on a par with the info the Rosenbergs gave to the Commies in 1950. No, sorry, it was not one of those faithful and valued readers.
It was a lovely East Boothbay woman, an old friend, who told me I should quit telling readers that we are getting old.
She said we are about the same age. We all know the same people and lots of them are dying. But you don’t need to remind us about it, she said. Then she laughed, smiled, and headed to the cashier as I grabbed a head of lettuce.
Yes, we are all infected with a fatal disease known as O.L.D. There is no vaccine, no cure. No matter what we do to avoid it, we are stuck with our age.
Shel Silverstein, the immortal iconic poet, put it this way: “You can drink ginseng tonics, you're still gonna die. Try high colonics, you're still gonna die. You can have yourself frozen and suspended in time, But when they thaw you out, you're still gonna die. (You can) Move out west where it's sunny and dry. And you'll live to be a hundred, but you're still gonna die.”
Yes, Uncle Shelby is right. And so was my friendly reader/critic. We are all gonna die. But should I write about it?
In fact, as soon as I finish this column, I will search my closet for a tie, as a Saturday funeral is on the schedule. The uniform of the day includes a coat and tie.
The thought of losing friends and attending funerals is sobering, a downer. But does that mean we should hide in a dark corner and pout? Think about it for a minute. Haven't we all had a pretty good run?
Last week, I got another side of this story when one of my morning walking pals said his kids treated their folks to a concert at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium. It featured The Temptations and The Four Tops.
He had no longer completed that sentence when we both sang a few bars of “My Girl” and laughed. He said both acts featured just one original Temptation and one surviving Top – both in their 80s. But they put on a good show.
He noted the audience had lots of old guys and white-haired women who stood during the songs and pretended to dance. All were having a good time.
A couple of weeks ago, I flew to New Orleans and attended the Jazz Fest. The traditional jazz venue featured a dance floor alongside a stage filled with great players.
There, yes, you guessed it, a couple of dozen old guys and white-haired women were whirling and dancing. Then, the traditional jazz combo played a somber funeral dirge. They followed it with the joy-filled standard: “Didn’t He Ramble?”
As the band began to swing and as if on cue, the revelers left the dance floor and joined a crowd marching around the audience swaying and singing in a celebration of life.
Dear Reader, the bottom line is that in both instances, despite age and associated aches and pains, the old guys and the white-haired women at shows a thousand miles apart ignored a crowd of strangers, held hands, and danced with joy.
At both shows, these old-timers just didn't give a hoot. They were alive and not going to waste a minute of the time they had left by sitting in the corner complaining about the ravages of Father Time.
Think about it for a minute. Sure, some had bum hips and mechanical knees, but these veterans of the class of 1955-60 could still remember the joys of music and dance.
They earned the right to dance, for they survived the birth of Rock n’ Roll, college years where beer was the drug of choice, the Vietnam War, and associated protesters, pro and con.
They kept their noses to the grindstone and raised their kids only to be kicked aside as the world entered the computer/smartphone age that forced them to beg their grandchildren for instructions.
Don’t you think that old men and white-haired women have earned the right to have some fun? They aged, but darn it, they still stood up, held hands, and danced.
Maybe my reader/critic was right. Maybe I should quit reminding readers about “that ailment which can’t be named.”
On that note, I think I will celebrate myself by firing up the grill, burning a steak, and opening a bottle of red.
It's not dancing, but it ain’t too bad, either.
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