Over the Hill

Are too many on Capitol Hill over the hill?

I haven’t been writing blogs as often as I did a year or two ago, mostly because the world, especially the political world, has gone wacky. I can’t even make fun of this wackiness anymore, because these people are serious, and there are a lot of them out there. I should be enthused that, at this point, at least, two dudes much older than I will probably be running for President next year. Yet even I, defender of geezerhood that I am, think they may be too old. It has come to a choice between mental torpidness from the Democrats and mental illness from the Republicans. As for me, I prefer slow and stumbling over crazy and criminal if it comes to that.

So, as we gaze in astonishment at the probability of two well-seasoned major party presidential candidates in 2024, we can at least take satisfaction that we the voters will have nominated two men with a combined age on election day of 158. Why? Americans grow up respecting our elders so we can take heart that Biden and Trump, if they are indeed on the ballot, will set a record in geriatric politics. The same two broke that record in 2020 with 150 combined years. Before that the record was the 137 years tallied by Donald Trump (69) and Hillary Clinton (68), so there seems to be a trend here as Americans keep voting as if there is no such thing as over the hill on Capitol Hill or in the White House.

I mention Capitol Hill, because the people with seniority in both the 100-member Senate and 435-member House take old age beyond that of their working constituents. There are two senators in their nineties and four in their eighties, plus 30 in their seventies as of February of this year. That’s well over a third of that legislative body. As for the House, there are fifteen of our representatives in their eighties at last count and 73 in their seventies.

Since the end of World War II, by the way, the average age of our presidential candidates is 60.2 years for Republicans and 58.5 for Democrats— and that includes the two oldest of all, Biden and Trump.

Whatever you may feel about old people running the country, I thought maybe I could rehash some of my aging observations of old from past newspaper commentary and website blogs. Some of them go all the way back to my youthful sixties, but maybe it will take your mind off the déjà vu of American politics of late.

Let’s start with my ongoing battle against patronizing young’uns…

*People in their twenties, thirties and forties have been addressing me as “sir” for several years now. Then there was that one callous young fellow in the line at the grocery store saying, “After you, Pops.”

That’s what you call being polite and insulting at the same time. Naturally, I couldn’t resist responding, “Oh, bless you, Sonny.” I was being facetious, but I played it straight, and I enjoyed the twitch of confusion and irritation that flitted across his face. It confirmed that “Pops” had been a put-down and not a good-natured appellation on his part. I confess a fleeting feeling of satisfaction when I heard him order a carton of cigarettes as I walked out of the store.

“Take that, Sonny,” I was thinking to myself. “Pops might outlive you after all.”

I suppose that was mean-spirited, but I wasn’t the one shortening his life expectancy. How about one of my many observations about being a Baby Boomer?

Baby Boomer is cute and non-threatening, I suppose, but it is also insipid and uninspiring. It was my peers who fostered political correctness and formed a governmental system that can’t get anything accomplished because we haven’t the character to work together and treat each other with respect. We are so obsessed with winning the next election, pointing the finger of blame, we forget we’re all on the same team.

Okay they’re not all Baby Boomers, but as the grownups in the playpen, it is our responsibility to remind our juniors that we’re on the same team and a house divided too often comes crashing down. Let’s move on to another topic which I’m apparently nearing every day— death. I do not scoff at death, but old age does allow me the opportunity to include death in my humor when younger people can’t. Why? Because they would be making fun of those of us who are old. Whereas those of us who are already old are merely self-deprecating.

If I become deceased, joining the legions of the dearly departed, I pray my expiration date allows me to turn mellow like fine wine instead of souring like old milk. If my plug is pulled and I go offline for good, I may find myself in the Elysian Fields listening to the fat lady sing. Then I will know it is time to pay the piper—or whoever is accompanying the fat lady—and will gracefully lay down my life and join the mortally challenged in eternal rest. There I expect to make new friends, perhaps meeting the reaper himself or hitching a ride with the grim ferryman. Maybe I can even cheer him up before reach the other side?

That’s enough of that morbid stuff. Aside from birth, there is nothing more common than death and its success rate is much greater. It’s just that old guys like me pay more attention to it. The good news is the average lifespan in this country is a touch over 79. That gives me a few more years just to be unexceptionally old. Furthermore, if you are in decent health at age 65, you have a 65 percent chance of making it to 85. Look it up. Now how about something short and sweet about aging from my personal archives?

Aging is not easy, especially if you’re going it alone. I get to grow old—with the accent on grow— with someone I love. She just happens to be an elderly woman.

Okay I admit I was kissing up to my lovely and almost-as-old-as-I-am wife on that one. Changing the subject quickly, I want to point out that mine was the last generation where it was okay to smoke— until 1970 when the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act became law and a nationwide anti-smoking initiative began. Maybe that’s one reason why we’re living so much longer. Due to the recent death of Jimmy Buffett, I think he deserves a quote on aging and death.

Jimmy Buffet may not be known as a great philosopher, but he hit it on the head in his song, “Growing Older but Not Up,” when he crooned, “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.” In other words, though aging leads us closer to death, face what you have left as enthusiastically as you can.

Then there are the semantics of advanced aging such as “senior citizen” and “elderly” and plain old “aged.” Combine that with the fact that a growing number of old people still have parents who are alive, which raises other questions, one of which I submitted a few years back.

I don’t like to be called old or elderly either, but that is what I am if you feel you have to stereotype me by age. Say you are in your sixties and at least one of your parents is still around. Does that make you both elderly; or is your parent merely “elderlier” than you?

My generation may be old, but we changed music with the birth of rock and roll as teen-agers. Even though we claim ownership of that music, the meaning of the lyrics change as we age. Here’s an example from a commentary I wrote a few years back about “aging rockers.”

You know when I first heard Jim Morrison sing, ‘C’mon, baby, light my fire,” I knew what he was saying. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Now when I hear it, I’m thinking it is getting a bit chilly and I should tell my wife to turn up the thermostat the next time she walks by.

I admit I’ve been old for some time now. I look around for some codger to tell me what it was like in the old days. Then I realize that I’m usually the codger, wherever I may be. I’m hovering at the three-quarters of a century mark, and I take heart that I know people in their eighties and nineties who are still sharp and spry. Makes me wonder why people under fifty are never described as spry. Nevertheless, I pray for as much spryness as possible for all our wacky geriatric office holders.