|Roger Angell last month. --Brigitte Lacombe|
At age 93, Roger Angell offers a portrait of himself in a recent New Yorker that rivals the poignancy of a Rembrandt but in words.
It is not a destination that many of us, just leaving careers or contemplating doing so, want to think about. With all this longevity we’ve come to expect, the world of Angell would seem decades away. Not anything we want to contemplate as we spin at the gym, travel the world or plunge into new challenges.
Yet Angell remains an extraordinary writer and he charms us into his world, even as we struggle not to know what it will be like.
He’s had heart surgeries, suffers knee and back problems and uses a cane; he forgets names, misses pets and people he has loved; and there’s more he’s lost. Yet he remains resolutely optimistic and grateful. And he plows ahead with an unremitting sense of humor, even a dark humor. Maybe that’s what we really need to work on more than weight lifting and Lumosity.
“I’m ninety-three, and I’m feeling great. Well, pretty great, unless I’ve forgotten to take a couple Tylenols in the past four or five hours, in which case I’ve begun to feel some jagged little pains…”
“I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse. I know how lucky I am, and secretly tap wood, greet the day, and grab sneaky pleasure from my survival at long odds.”
“I am a world-class complainer but find palpable joy arriving with my evening Dewar’s.”
On the other hand, as he plies us with quips and smiles, he spoon feeds us the unwanted tastes of our future. For one: How to keep on going on when our loved ones depart this world?
“A few notes about age is my aim here, but a little more about loss is inevitable,” Angell writes.
“We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing… reappear unexpectedly…”
And then there’s the part about a yearning for intimacy.
You owe it to yourself to read his entire essay.
Then pray that you have a few ounces of Angell’s wit and wisdom – and sense of humor – if you get to where he is.
Meanwhile, (if you’re a guy, anyway), Angell reminds us of Walter Cronkite’s “rules for old men which he did not deliver over the air:
Never trust a fart. Never pass up a drink. Never ignore an erection.”