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The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune: The Joys of Reaching a Certain Age by Willard Scott

 

Rating: (Read only if your interest is strong)

 

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Yada

Willard Scott has assembled a set of short comments from a wide range of people, some famous, some not, in his new book, The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune. After reading the book, all I could ask was, “Why?” The quotes are occasionally pithy, sometimes inspirational, but usually were vapid, and seemed monotonous after a short while. Here’s an excerpt (p. 21ff):

All I can say is I am glad I am as old as I am. Both my husband and I are in our seventies. Mike retired from the space program in 1990 and we have been having fun ever since. We have a motor home and have done a lot of traveling. With our travels we have worked fro Habitat for Humanity helping to build houses all over the country. I have also worked in a Salvation Army Thrift Store as a volunteer. We have volunteered at a county park in California. Everything we do now is as a volunteer. Mike has worked at a learning center in Yuma, Arizona, doing building, etc. I volunteer at our library and at our church, and help with serving dinners for the homeless at Thanksgiving. There is no end to what you can do when you do not have to worry about going to work every day.

The best volunteering I do is being a Chemo Angel. It is an organization of over 2,000 angels. We adopt a person that is going through cancer treatment and we send cards and gifts every week as long as we are needed. It is so rewarding, I cannot even explain the feeling I get from doing it.

So you see, getting older can be pretty wonderful.

—BOBBIE, born April 8, 1931, is a homemaker, wife, and mother of five children, and MIKE YANKOVICH, born November 9, 1928, is a retired engineer for the space program; they have been married for fifty years.

 

One of the great things about getting older is my participation in a senior singing group called the Pavilionaires. After rehearsing for weeks, the director works up a program that we present at nursing homes. The residents of the nursing homes enjoy listening to us and participating in sing-alongs. For one who has an average voice but enjoys singing,

this group fits my needs. I've always wanted to sing in a group, but it took my senior years to find an outlet. My husband is also in the group, so this is a togetherness activity for us. My advice to pass on to other generations is to do "togetherness" activities together instead of going your own ways.

RUTH B. GLASS, born November 8, 1928, is a retired schoolteacher.

 

No one goes before his time—unless the boss leaves early.

—GROUCHO MARX

 

Growing older is not that great. But true to the Emersonian doctrine of "for every gain there is a loss and for every loss there is a gain," there are assets to be had as well as frustrations.

What I learned as I have grown older is the increasing reliance I place on my instincts, my intuition, my judgments, when the future can only be dimly seen, if seen at all. I have grown to trust my instincts. When a problem arises, others fuss about it with logic, research, lawyerly searches, and the like. But I "smell" it and "feel" it because I always turn to that little elf who lives somewhere between my belly and my brain, and I listen to that little elf because his name is "instinct."

I do believe that the longer one lives, the more sensitive becomes "instinct." I have found over the years that I am right far more often than I am wrong at peering through a vapory veil that curtains over the future. I remember an old friend of mine, the late dark Clifford, when asked how he became successful. His answer was "making the right decisions" and when queried on how to make right decisions, he answered, "by making wrong decisions." Pretty apt, and accurate.

The other thing I have learned is that if one keeps fit—and I mean really fit—one can extend active life much longer than the catalog of the calendar so sourly prescribes. Older life can bring much delight in doing that which older people are not supposed to be able to do physically. But keeping fit means religiously exercising every day. Somehow, I find the time to do that, as one goes to church, knowing that absence may bring down upon you the wrath of the Higher Being who inhabits that church.

Finally, always have fun doing whatever you do. If it isn't fun, stop doing it. So when you bring them all together, following your instincts honed by experience, keeping fit and having fun doing your daily chores, you can find the older years not that unsuitable. Well, it would be better to be younger, but what the hell, you have no choice, since time hits us all with the same velocity.

—JACK VALENTI, born September 5, 1921, is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America.

 

I am eighty-seven years old. Even though I went through my most devastating time with the death of my husband, whom I dearly loved, I have the opportunity and ability now to appreciate a new and different experience: living without my husband

of sixty-three years.

As a child, I remember overhearing my parents describe me as self-willed and determined. I guess I was self-motivated, because I decided early on to be prepared to meet the challenges that life offered.

In 1932, at seventeen, I made a decision to attend college in the mornings and help my father, a second-generation wholesale New York furrier, in the afternoons. I wanted to learn all aspects of his business in order to keep the family's fur business tradition alive. During those years, I learned the difference between good and bad skins, how the manufacturing process works, and the fine points of selling.

After my father died, I decided to leave the wholesale market because it was dirty and women were considered easy sexual prey. So at the age of forty-five, I decided to take my expertise to the retail market.

Little did I know that fine New York retail stores did not hire women over forty-five, regardless of experience. I heard that Saks Fifth Avenue needed a man to run their men's fur department. I decided that job was for me! I was interviewed by the manager, the buyer, and the president of the fur department. They were impressed with my resume but wanted a man. On my own, I went to seethe president of Saks Fifth Avenue. Much to my surprise, I got an appointment. I promised him that under my management, with my experience, his store would be the talk of the town. I think he was stunned, but he said he'd let me know. The following morning his office called: The job was mine. And I did a bang-up job. Our figures were astronomical and people came from all over the world to buy men's furs in "my" department.

Years later, when my husband decided to retire in Honolulu, where our son was a practicing physician, I decided to open a fur salon in a prestigious women's ready-to-wear store. When I told people my plans, they laughed. "Furs in Honolulu, that's funny. It's hot as hell there." But I did it, and successfully, too. I always thought that once a person hit fifty, he/she was over the hill. Not so in Honolulu; age was revered there. That was lucky for me, as I moved there when I was fifty-nine and was still considered young. I'm glad about that, for I continued working until I was eighty-one.

As I aged, I learned to respect myself for being able to direct my skills into good positions in which I found success professionally and financially. If I knew then what I know now, I could have been a less demanding person and still been successful.

Old age is a wonderful time for reflection of life's ups and downs, its pains as well as successes. Viva old age!

 

MARIAN REICH, born December 17, 1914, has been active in her family's fur business and worked in New York in the wholesale fur trade and later as head of Saks Fifth Avenue's men's fur department; she has one son.

 

You don't have to take any guff from anyone. If you don't really want to do something, you don't have to. Unless your wife says it's real important.

 

—YOGI BERRA, born May 12, 1925, was one of baseball's greatest catchers and the manager of the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.

Sometimes we read because there are voices we want to hear, there are perspectives we gain, knowledge gathered. From reading The Older the Fiddle, a reader comes away older, but not necessarily wiser.

Steve Hopkins, July 25, 2003

 

ă 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC

 

The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the August 2003 issue of Executive Times

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