In 1996 I was about 52 years old and Paul Anka had just come out with a new album: Amigos. Paul is a fantastic singer whose songs I have always loved and, the fact that his parents hail from Lebanon makes me, of course, think that he is even more fantastic! His father owned a restaurant that he called “La Locanda,” which is a Turkish word for: lodge, or inn. Many words in the Arabic language were adapted from the Turkish. After all, Turkey was the Ottoman Empire that ruled our countries for about six hundred years. During that period languages intermingled, cuisines and recipes combined, and fashion styles were adopted and adapted.
Anyway, I wanted to buy that CD right away. At that time, and before everything went online, we still had many retail Music Stores. So I walked into the store to be greeted by a very young woman (late teens?) and asked her where I could find Paul Anka’s CDs.
“I’ve never heard of him. I’ll ask the manager.”
Well, now! My immediate reaction was: Yii! I’m not as much of a spring chicken as I am feeling, after all! I heard the bounce in my step, the sprightliness of my attitude deflate with a loud Ppppfffpfpfpf!
At that point, I began giving age and ageing some deep thoughts. And, to be perfectly honest, that contemplation was a bit disconcerting! True, one of my daughters was married by then. True, that I had made my own Mother a Grandmother when she was even younger than I was then. True, there were a few more wrinkles on the face. However, . . . I felt not one day older than I was twenty years ago! How and When does life so cynically surprise us like this?
Nevertheless, I made a decision right about then to deal with this reality in a rational manner. After all, it was inevitable, and the sooner I realized that coping with it is, like all else, a matter of attitude and state of mind, the better off I will be.
Following that experience, my life, in the years between fifty and seventy, seemed to whiz by faster than it ever had! My three other children got married, grandchildren were introducing themselves to their parents, to me and to the world; some older family members and friends were coming down with illnesses and some were dying; wars were happening, intensifying and creating more heartaches and traumas for millions of people across the world; the Internet was assiduously changing our lives; global warming was upon us.
While I can concise all these events herewith in a paragraph, the truth is that each and every one of them continues to occupy me, sometimes happily and, often, discombobulates me immeasurably. It is life continuing its path as it has for thousands of years – its events sometimes within my control, but more often than not, totally out of my influence. A humbling realization for someone who grew up in the generation that believed it was going to change the world!
And so it was that I began noticing younger men and women holding heavy mall and restaurant doors open for me, smiling sweetly at my oldness!
I also noticed that I could now tell the younger women – and sometimes men – at the shops, restaurants, banks or other establishments: “Thank you, sweetheart” and “That’s very nice, darling” without their having a conniption! In their mind, I am probably either: That sweet old woman, or that batty old lady! It doesn’t really matter at this stage of the game, does it?
My crossword puzzles, though they are all caught up with the PC (Politically Correct) world, still sometimes insist on equating Arabs with Nomads and Bedouins! That damned strain of endemic racism, bigotry and ignorance pervades the Western World whether we are discussing crossword puzzles or politics. I am resigned to the fact that while I will continue to write and talk vociferously about this, it will not go away in my lifetime.
Then, of course, this being America, where our corporate masters love to put everything and everyone in a box, wrap it up nicely, stick a label on it and lay it on the shelf to be referred to when necessary, I now belong to an important demographic: Older People. Medical Insurance Companies, Food Conglomerates, Makeup Manufacturers and the Pharmaceutical Industry court me all the time! Avidly! Relentlessly! They do that in newspapers and magazines, by mail, on radio, TV, social media, the Internet and Anywhere, Everywhere, all the time!
They: You need your flu shot.
They: We have pills for that arthritis pain. Why should you feel Any pain at all?
They: No need to spend one more sleepless night! Here’s a sleeping pill.
They: Drink wine. Eat nuts. More fruits. This spice. That herb. You will prolong your life.
They: Whiten your teeth? Cap them? Implants? Some Botox? Wrinkle erasing cream? Hair colorants? A tuck, a nip?
Yes, they love me so! They all have just the answer to keep me forever young, healthy, and wrinkle free! Anything to sell their products to a demographic of men and women who sincerely believe that they should Not Get Sick, Age or Die and who are very surprised when they do! Hello? No, really: Hello?
On a more serious note, I realize that while during all of these years, I was one small voice amongst a few, crying out against all wars and their perpetrators, and that I did not, and cannot, stop wars from happening, the voices that are nowadays shouting with me are increasing by the day. For me, to witness ten million people across our globe marching on February 15, 2003 against the Bush War on Iraq and the neo-colonialist doctrine, gives me hope for the world even though our demands were totally ignored and some of us were totally crushed with despair! However, people will rise up against injustice again. They just will!
I also believe that Israel will not stop any of its criminal acts towards the Palestinian people – or towards the people of all the countries surrounding it – any time soon. That does not mean that I will give up stating that the Israeli Government and its supporters are all equally criminal and that I will continue to stand up and speak out against this. There, again, the voices that are supporting me are increasing as more humans realize that this occupation is contradictory to any moral or legal understanding. I also know that this will change one day! The fact that I might not be there deters me not one iota!
Age teaches us that Nothing lasts. No romance, no grief, no joy, no pain. Likewise, No war. No occupation. No tyranny. The advantage of age is that while I am aware of all this, I am also aware of the fact that if I give in to despair I will be taking away another needed and necessary voice speaking up for injustice. That would be morally wrong. And so I will persevere ceaselessly.
At the end of the day every single person on this planet has a story. My story, your story, are just one of an infinitesimal number. It is up to me, to each of us, to write the ending of that story in a way that will do our legacy justice and that, in one small way or another, will serve humanity.
Ageing? It is an inescapable fact. My Age? I am loving it! And, I am relishing the realization that I can now look at all that’s going on in the world from the perspective of time. It is a viewpoint that is both humbling and wistful as I recognize how obdurate humanity is and how long it is taking most of us to evolve into our better selves. However, I also know that it is happening already. This gives me hope and keeps my spirits up even on the most dismal of these news days!
So, even though life didn’t always happen exactly My Way, I can still enjoy the song Paul Anka wrote for Frank Sinatra, sung here by the incredible Three Tenors. Enjoy!