Roger Angell, The New Yorker essayist and author on sports and culture turned 96 this year. He is living proof you can be both great and humble.
His story “This Old Man: Life in the Nineties” (The New Yorker, 2-17-14) shares some uniquely entertaining and real insights into longevity. It is the best I’ve read on the subject.
He begins, “Check me out. The top two knuckles of my left hand look as if I’d been worked over by the K.G.B. No, it’s more as if I’d been a catcher for the Hall of Fame pitcher Candy Cummings, the inventor of the curveball, who retired from the game in 1877.”
My favorite observation: “My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.”
About becoming invisible: “We elders – what kind of handle is this, anyway, halfway between a tree and eel? – we elders have learned a thing or two, including invisibility. … Yes, we’re invisible. Honored, respected, even loved, but not quite worth listening to anymore. You’ve had your turn, Pops, now it’s ours.”
And to this I can humbly relate: “I’ve also become a blogger, and enjoy the ease and freedom of the form; it’s a bit like making a paper airplane and then watching it take wing below your window. … The thoughts of age are short, short thoughts.”
(Photograph of Roger Angell with Andy, January 2014, from The New Yorker by Brigitte Lacombe.)