Old Age

“To me, old age seems to be the art of keeping going. Speed and direction are not important. Movement is.” Fay Vincent

“I spend most of my time in the company of my cherished wife. I think there is truth in the old line that older marrieds tend to resemble each other as time goes by.” Ibid

Life as the Ninth Inning Nears

Fay Vincent, The Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2016, p. A 11

VINCENT

Former Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent rides in a golf cart before the exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers at Dogertown in Vero Beach, Fla., Friday, March 25, 2005. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

One of the many prob­lems with advancing age—not old age, please—is there is too much to read about the end of life. Books and articles about dy­ing are in vogue, but I could not finish Dr. Atul Gawande’s best-selling “Being Mortal.” I do not want to know how much my brain is shrinking and why my teeth will fall out. Spare me.

I am comforted by the re­alization that everyone is get­ting older and so we are all in the same boat. My contemporaries share my experiences, and they have the same fears and many of the same limita­tions as I do.

I am still excited by good books, and I try to persuade others to read what has thrilled me. But many of us do not want to be pushed. We prefer to discover good books on our own.

My interest in sports — baseball, of course — remains strong, though it is narrower than it used to be. I no lon­ger watch hockey or boxing. But I never miss the World Series, or the Masters, in part because of the captivating natural beauty of the Augusta golf course. Despite a foot­ball lineage — my dad was an NFL official — I rarely watch the second half of the Super Bowl. The games are too long, and half-time shows are a bizarre reminder of music I do not understand. Why is there so much jumping up and down?

I spend most of my time in the company of my cher­ished wife. I think there is truth in the old line that older marrieds tend to re­semble each other as time goes by. I enjoy visits with friends as well, but I have a rule: None of us can speak more than three sentences about medical news. I am certain my problems have limited interest, and so, I fib a lot when I am asked how I am doing.

To me, old age seems to be the art of keeping going. Speed and direction are not important. Movement is. I swim but slowly. I barely walk. I write, but with acute knowledge that my values and opinions are outdated. I still think duty, honor and country should be the national man­tra. I know better.

The very best thing about growing older is that I no longer try to change anyone’s mind. I can easily accept dis­agreement from friends and even critics. I also have long since surrendered any hope of impressing others, or of being impressed by them. In these final innings I want to stay at bat, even if I know I cannot expect to get a hit.

I am not selling anything nor am I buying. I want only to be at peace and in normal discomfort. Age makes life simple until it does not.

Yes, the rear view mirror is where I get the most plea­sure. There I can run and jump and shag high fly balls in the many sunny baseball fields of my youth. There are still those joyful memories of good times and old pals and long dead family and friends. That is what is left now, and that has to be fine with me.

Mr. Vincent was formerly CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries, executive vice president of Coca-Cola, and the commissioner of Major League Baseball 1989-92.

 

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