It is undeniable. I am now old. I have lived three-quarters of a century, 75 years. That’s 3,900 weeks or 27,300 days. (Deplete your own calculator to figure out the minutes and seconds.) I remember once thinking 29 was old.
I used to be the youngest after skipping 8th grade when I was briefly a child genius. Then, in college, to avoid persistent embarrassment I pretended to be older than I was. When I was about to graduate, I told my college roommate how old I really was. He was a vet and five years older than I was. At first, he didn’t believe me then, after reconsideration, he said, “That explains it all,” not necessarily a compliment.
But now I really am old, and what to many people is history was to me current events. Come join me on a self-indulgent review of the prehistoric moments that I was actually alive for.
Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)? I was living in Burlington, Vermont, and expected a mushroom cloud to rise over Plattsburgh Air Force base (now defunct) on the other side of Lake Champlain. My thought at the time was, what idiot would risk nuclear holocaust and the annihilation of humankind over the presence of missiles in Cuba?
During the height of the Civil Rights era, I did some marching, collected some money to support Freedom Riders and when John Lewis came to speak at the university, a bunch of us sat around with him, then a very young monument of The Movement, drinking beer and talking about his heroic work all night. That young man is now 79, a saintly Congressman currently being treated for serious illness.
In November 1963, I was getting a haircut (begrudgingly) when the news came in to the barbershop that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. I fully expected rioting to break out in the streets as would have happened in any number of banana republics. Instead, I remember most clearly being in the college cafeteria and watching tears dripping off the end of a young student’s nose. One heartbroken friend was unable to talk for two days.
In 1967, I participated in an anti-war march New York City where Martin Luther King was among the speakers denouncing the Vietnam War.
Of considerably less historical significance, September 16, 1967 was the date of my last professional haircut, a day that will live in infamy.
I refused to watch the July 1969 Moon Landing (“One small step for man . . .”) seeing it as a frivolous waste of money which should have been spent feeding the hungry and generally making planet earth a better place for man.
The next month, I did not attend Woodstock. Reflecting the mood of the time, or at least my mood, I saw the festival of music and love as an obvious plot by the government to gather young activists in one place and imprison or exterminate them. As it turned out, what I avoided was good music and bad weather.
The September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center is ancient history to anyone under the age of 30. Remarkably, in one of my Mercer County College classes, every student knew a victim of the attack.
I was born when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. To most people that’s like having co-existed with John Quincy Adams. The timing of my birth puts me in the surprising demographic of being a war baby rather than a baby boomer.
With a few exceptions, my perception of presidents serving during my lifetime was that each one since FDR was worse than then the one before.
My lifetime encompasses an era where using a fountain pen was a sign of sophistication, where all ballpoint pens leaked, and where typewriters (and white-out) distinguished serious students from slackers. Way before Honda and Sony, the label “Made in Japan” was equated with shoddiness. Banks promoted insidious “Christmas Clubs,” scams where savings accounts accrued no interest.
Physically, I am as robust as any 22-year-old except that in the morning, instead of gliding out of bed, I stagger. With my big, white winter beard, little children mistake me for Santa Claus. Maybe I am Santa. I can do push-ups but no longer chin-ups. I prefer tennis singles to doubles. I can ride a bike without too much complaining for 50 miles (OK, maybe 30 miles) and I can swim until I get bored.
However, napping has become my favorite sport.
Robin Schore is a resident of Hopewell Borough.