Bob Marrow proves that old age is not a period of decline.
I became seventy-four years old a few months ago, on Valentine’s Day 2015. I was born ten months before the United States declared war on Japan and Germany.
I was a student for what felt like forever, then I was in the Army for two years, which now seems like fleeting seconds, then I worked as a lawyer for about 40 years. I hate the phrase “practiced law” — it’s either pretentiously professional or an admission of ignorance.
I did not look forward to old age, if that’s where I am now. It is supposed to be a period of decline, and who wants that, except when skiing, biking or running. But that’s not how it turned out. About seven years ago, I stopped going to my office and centered my life at home. That’s when it happened; I still worked occasionally as a lawyer, but more importantly I became creative.
I wrote stories, memoirs and short biographies of people I knew who had interesting lives. My writing was published in magazines, in a local newspaper and in an online site for essays and stories. I began to appreciate the self- knowledge, discipline and creativity that is required to play golf well. Then I returned to the piano, which I had abandoned when I was eleven or twelve. I had acquired a piano in 1978 when I was 37 and played from a book that I had used in my childhood. Two years ago I started taking lessons and learned pieces by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and other “classical” composers. This wasn’t actually “creating” anything; rather, I was trying to play music that they had created centuries ago. Practicing pieces with painful slowness, repeating passages endlessly, eventually results in the emergence of music, even if I’m the only one who listens and considers it beautiful.
Then there is my relationship with my wife. I’ve been married four times and even with the treasure I finally found in Ellen more than twenty years ago, it was hard for me to focus on the pleasure of being with her while I was concentrating on negotiations, drafting, preparing for depositions and trials, the everyday tension of representing clients. I always knew Ellen was beautiful physically and emotionally, but could not fully appreciate the pleasure of being with her until I was released from the albatross of being a lawyer. In the past, I would move over to her side of the bed and feel her next to me in order to be released from the tensions of work. Now I do it for the sheer pleasure of feeling her smooth, soft skin against mine. What this leads to, sometimes, is more fulfilling than the sudden, explosive passion of younger days. I have found that old age, if that is what this is, should have been anticipated with confidence.
Photo: Christiaan Triebert/Flickr