By Simone Cohen Scott
August 23, 2017

 

I find it so much more dignified to say I'm about to become an octogenarian, than to say I'm turning eighty. Some people have said eighty is the new sixty, and I know what they mean by that, but it's not how I like to think. That implies being eighty is not as desirable as sixty, and I wonder why not. So I've decided to think through the pros and cons of reaching this age, and perhaps settle on an attitude about it.

Vanity has got to go. Looking younger as a goal no longer has a point. So I could look seventy? Big deal. Those of you who read me know I love the Bible. So the Bible, in Proverbs 31, talking about the Woman of Valour, says that 'with strength and dignity' is how she clothes herself. In the Torah, describing Moses dressing Aaron for his role as High Priest, elements are chosen 'for dignity and adornment'. I sure like that 'adornment'. Reminds me of the adage: 'Youth and beauty fade away; accessories are here to stay.' But never mind, let's focus on 'dignity'. Ignore the sales clerk who tells you something is 'age appropriate'. Choose dignified-looking apparel; go for the 'dignified look'. Guys, you too. Okay, that's enough about personal appearance.

How about Wisdom? Have I acquired any Wisdom to show for my years of experience? This is going to take a lot of thought. The first things that come to mind are all my mother's common sense phrases. Do they count as wisdom? No, not for me; it would have been wise had I heeded her admonitions, but I didn't. However, what I learned instead from my own life choices and experiences might suffice as an answer were I being interviewed, say, on my deathbed. Most of what I would say is probably diametrically opposed to the entrenched thinking nowadays, but all of it I learned first hand. I may not actually be old enough yet to say the really unpopular things; I'd better be careful as I may still live a long time. So I won't comment on multiple marriages, which I've had; or moms who'd rather stay home and look after the children, which I prefer; or guys who take pride in being the breadwinner, which I respect; or kids who finish highschool, which I didn't; or people who give back to the community, which I admire. In the final analysis, I believe that the only thing on this earth that has eternal value is the quality of your relationship with others. This means, at the deepest level, it's the children you rear, and their children, and their children's children, literally ad infinitim, that is of lasting value. After the children, it is the love you give, soul to soul, to other people, that matters. This takes humility and unselfishness. It's awfully hard to do. I'm still working on it.

Upon having just finished the previous paragraph, I began to think of the song 'Nature Boy', written by Eden Ahbez, a Jewish fellow from Brooklyn, born Alexander Aberle. He was a forerunner of Bob Dylan, without the marketing smarts. Or maybe it's just that the timing was off; Aberle was born in 1908. Legend has it, from the '40s on, he lived under the HOLLYWOOD sign. Anyway, the last line goes: 'The greatest thing, you'll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return.' It always gets me all ferklempt.

So, going forward, as they say: what am I going to do now? Or as my son asked me a few years ago: “What are you going to be when you grow up?” I have a very blessed life, a cottage at The Beach, an apartment in Jerusalem, a house in Winnipeg where my chicks can come home to roost. But my son is right; I'm not grown up. I've never felt what I thought being a 'grown up' would feel like. So I looked at that question, and I noticed that the term 'grown up' implies being finished growing. Well, I don't want to ever stop growing. I want to be like a tree; I want my roots to dig deep into the soil of learning/study, and my branches to keep spreading upwards and outwards into living, i.e. putting into practice what I'm learning. My twin passions, for Judaism and for Zionism, are doing that for me. I was late coming into this, my heritage. I've only been at it thirty years or so, but my enthusiasm grows daily. Lord willing, may it continue to do so, day by day, year by year, until my time is over. For now, I'm standing on the verse from the Tenach (Old Testament):Tehillim (Psalms) 92:vs.15. “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and richness.”

SIMONE