Copyright © 1997 Henrietta W. Hay
John F. Kennedy at 80
June 13, 1997
John Kennedy would have been 80 last month. No way. John Kennedy will
be forever young -- tall, slim, handsome, with that ridiculous Boston
accent and with his passion for life.
To my generation he was hope and idealism and eternal youth -- Camelot.
John Kennedy will never be old, although his generation now officially
answers to the word. But somehow I believe that Camelot is still with
us, way down inside.
We are perhaps the last generation that knew a time of political
idealism -- and remembers it.
I wonder what he would be like had he lived to 80. Would he have lost
his enthusiasm for life and politics? I think probably not. Age does
not kill dreams or passion. Maybe that is the reason that I get a little
edgy when people try to put everyone in an age box.
I met a friend in the grocery store recently, and somewhere between the
oranges and the potatoes. I know how old she is, because we were young
co-eds at C. U. at the same time back in the dark ages. I asked her
how she is. She sort of sighed and said she guessed she was OK, but her
doctor kept reminding her that after all, she is over 80 and what can
she expect. My explosive, "What! He said that?" startled a couple of
shoppers into a quick retreat.
She went on to tell me that he had told her that at her age she simply
could not expect feel as good as she did at 40, and that there wasn't
much she could do about it. He warned her to be very careful about
physical activity because she might fall and break a hip.
I know a lot of people over 80. But I do not know a single
octogenarian who does know already know that his/her body is not the
same as it was at 40. It hurts in various places at odd times. It
moves more slowly. Things like knees and hips wear out, and eyes and
ears do not see and hear as clearly. The energy level is going down.
Sometimes it disappears entirely. We generally know what we can do and
what we can't do. The last thing in the world that we need is to be
told by the doctors we trust, or anybody else, that because we are old
there is no point in trying. Fortunately, most doctors understand
Who knows how people are supposed to feel at 80 or at any other age?
Sometimes I feel 40 and sometimes 120. My boomer friends have their off
We are as a society having a lot of trouble dealing with the fact of
aging. There are a more of us today than there have been in the past -
-and the big bunch is coming. I have never used that word, "old",
much, but maybe it is time to accept as a word it and reject it as a
stereotype at the same time.
As the baby boomers hit middle-age this whole age stereotype will become
less important and maybe we will start looking at people as
individuals. Age is only one of the many things that put a limitation
on what we can do and what we choose to do.
Christopher Reeve at 45 can tell us that there are factors other than
age that limit what one can do. I am awestruck at the way he is
overcoming the results of his accident. And George Bush at 72 jumped
out of an airplane. He said he had always wanted to do it --
voluntarily. Sure, he might have broken a hip -- or his neck. But he
didn't. Both of them remind me of the Energizer Bunny - they just keep
I can see John Kennedy still waving his arms around at 80, but
Kennedy with wild white hair is too much. He will always be 46 in my
mind. I suspect he would have been one of those who would agree
with Dylan Thomas,
"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day:
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."