Too Old For This

April 25th, 2019

Despite a sharp pain now and then … okay, now … people my age and older are still plenty sharp. Despite somewhat limited energy … okay, limited period … many of us still have unlimited spirit. There are many jobs we can still do, many challenges our experience can meet.

The hardest job in the world is not one of them.

And it pains me to say that, because the old guys that buy me coffee now and again and let me talk just might cut me off.

As published in The Daily Memphian



Years ago, I saw comedian/actor Red Buttons on the occasion of his 80th birthday as a guest on the Tonight Show. Host Johnny Carson asked him if he felt old.

“Old?” I remember Red answering. “I’m not old. Old is when you go to the doctor and they don’t ask for an X-ray. They just hold you up to the window.” He continued, “I’m not old. Old is when turn to your wife on the couch and say, ‘Honey, let’s go upstairs and make wild passionate love.’ And she says, ‘Sweetheart, we can’t do both.’”

If you don’t know who Red Buttons was, or Johnny Carson for that matter, I assure you that the leading candidates for the next President Of The United States do. I’m older than water and overweight and the current president has three years and 35 pounds on me. If reelected, he’ll be 74 starting his second term and even his combover will be somewhere around 40. The two leading Democrats will turn 80 in their first term if elected, an age closer to terry cloth robes and sunrooms than mantles of power and situation rooms.

I know from old. My best friends are old. Some of them are older than that. Every single one of us hurts. Every single one of us has maladies we’d never heard of ten years ago and knows pharmacists like we used to know bartenders. We don’t bend over so much as fold down or stand up so much as haul up. We don’t remember your name, but we remember who you dated in high school. We don’t remember lunch, but we remember exactly what the onion rings at the Pig ‘n Whistle on Union tasted like.

We have wisdom only the weight of years can produce and while we’re pretty sure – damn sure, in fact – that the world could use some of what we know, we’re wise enough to know you don’t want us running it.

Running is not something we do anymore. 

Joe Biden is the cute old guy all the ladies want to dance with at the senior center social – or at least he thinks so. It’s been his turn to be picked so long that the game is over – and only he doesn’t think so. You don’t become president because it’s your turn. Just ask Jed or Hillary.

Bernie Sanders is older than Joe, the rumpled old guy in everybody’s neighborhood shaking his finger at all the kids and telling them to stay off his lawn. He’s ticked off, he’s good at it, and ticked off people on the left love him for it. That’s just going to tick off everybody else. You can’t win the presidency going so far left you leave the middle nowhere reasonable to go from Trump’s so far right.

Donald Trump is just an old snake oil salesman – a lifelong conman dyeing, lying, faking and bullying his way through a presidency Lewis Carroll couldn’t have conceived of and all of us are paying for daily, spending credibility and respect around the world it took us centuries to earn.

Even though just 40% or so are still mesmerized by his shell game, the other 60% don’t seem to realize he could win again if the alternative is a tired old political product or an unacceptable extreme.

We need to give people in the middle a reason to believe we are better than what they’re seeing at the top of our political parties, that we can offer someone better able to lift us above the deadlocked morass that leadership has produced. Younger generations need to see someone better able to carry us to a better place that has relevance for them, promise for their future, and staying power.

America needs to believe there’s somebody out there better able to take us to tomorrow than our grandparents.

Trust me, we’re tired.

I’m a Memphian, and while I can show you the way, I shouldn’t be driving.

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