We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I lay on the grass, counting tweety-birds, after falling off the top step of a 12-foot ladder while trimming a tree in the front yard, my 12-year old son’s concerned face looking down at me. My father, who could and did do anything he set his mind to, until the day he died in his eighties, also stared down at me. At 64, I had something important to live up to and pass on to my son, so I forced myself to get up, smile, and say, “let’s get back to work” (ibuprofen to secretly follow later).
“NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP reads a plaque behind Dole.” So ends a respectful interview, “Great American”, with 88-year old former Senator Bob Dole by an otherwise snarky toward Republicans young lady from GQ. The young lady can't let go of the diminished physical condition of the man before her, but can't hide the respect and awe at his life. From athelete to crippled veteran to candidate for President to helping today's war wounded, Bob Dole gave all of himself, which stands tall before her.
As it so happens, this morning brought home that message from several other accomplished old men interviewed by my local newspaper, stirring me to talk about other old men and women with whom I spoke or chat with now on the phone. Their politics vary but they all came from impoverished roots here or abroad, are self-made, involved themselves fully in our national life. From my youth to now they share their anecdotes with their younger friend, from my callow days to me now at 64, as I sat or now sit figuratively enthralled at their feet listening. In their twilight years, still, they never never never give up, regardless the challenge, price or risk.
It’s their sense of duty to things greater than themselves, their love of country, which has animated them from youth to old age, a sense of humility before the obligation to pass on a better, stronger, decent world in which the only limitations are those placed on self. From famous labor leaders and former communists or socialists to industrialists to globe-trotting journalists and diplomats to national political figures to best-selling artists, authors and academics, all of theireyes sparkle and inspire as their self-effacing words did and do inspire me.
I met Bob Dole in the early 1970s, at the height of his political power, as he took the time to encourage me. I met the others either at the height of their successes or after. They took time to talk with me, answer my ignorant questions with enlightenment, and kick me in the ass when I dithered or wandered. I could list their names and the lessons they shared with me, but that would fill another several thousand words to even be very brief.
After years of hectoring him to write down some of his encounters with the famous and formative people who he met as an international journalist from the last days of WWII to now, a friend and mentor is now doing so. I hope to help him get it published. He laughed at me for constantly needling him to set his anecdotes down, saying no one cares anymore. I find myself saying similar to younger friends who similarly needle me to write it down. Maybe I will...if I make it to my eighties. You probably had or have similar people in your life. They need to be reminded that someone cares and many more will care if you help their lessons to be remembered by passing it on.
I remember hearing Churchill say it on the radio during the Second World War. The thing that startled me at the time was the number of 'nevers' he spoke; "never, never, never, never, never give up." Immensely effective it was, as he increased the volume with each 'never' until it rattled the speaker on our radio. I'll live by that, I resolved. And I have, pretty much.