WHY I DON’T WANT A 72-YEAR OLD PRESIDENT
I turned 69 this week. My husband is 73. Most of our friends are over 60, and we joke about our “senior moments.” We know our brains aren’t as flexible and powerful as they once were, so humor is one way of coping with that unhappy realization. We can’t think of the words we want to say. It takes longer to understand what someone is telling us. We schedule something for next Thursday while not realizing next Thursday falls on the day of the month that we always do something else. I know younger people also “double book” themselves, but this is different. We can actually entertain both possibilities at the same time and not see the contradiction.
I can understand why John McCain still thinks there is a country called Czechoslovakia and that Russia is still part of the Soviet Empire. We talked about those things for so many decades, they are imprinted on our brains. It’s really hard to unstick something you learned 50 years ago and lived with that long. I can understand why he referred to the “Iraq-Afghanistan border,” too, even though the two countries are 700 miles apart. News reports have referred to those two countries together for five years because the U.S. is involved in wars in both of them. Words that are repeated constantly together become linked in our brains, and it’s hard to unlink them and say “the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.”
When a reporter asks a question that John McCain is not prepared for, he appears to be staring into space. I know the feeling. He’s doing a “search” of his brain much the way we Google information on a computer. Somewhere deep in that database, there’s an answer that makes sense – if only he could get into the right file. Been there, done that. I’ve started the habit doing a little humming thing while I’m searching my brain for relevant information. It’s more entertaining than saying “uh…uh…mm…uh.”
I graduated with a 2.86 out of 4.0 GPA from an academically rigorous Jesuit college. John McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his class at the naval academy. I’m sure the curriculum was tough there even though they probably didn’t have Father Riordan’s class in metaphysics. He’s no Rhodes scholar, and neither am I. We both survived traumatic experiences that made us sadder but wiser. I don’t know if it’s true that he left his first wife because he met Cindy and liked her better, but I know his first wife still cares for him. (She said so in an interview last month.) I can relate to that.
Like most people my age, I wonder what the future will be like for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I know I won’t be around to find out. It’s hard to envision the future, much less strategize ways to shape it, when you know someone else will be making the decisions 10 years from now. I’m so thankful there are bright, creative, passionate young people all around me. I marvel at their energy, shorthand conversations, and how quickly they can program a number into their cell phones. It took me three years to remember my cell phone number. I taped it to the back of the phone.
And that’s why I don’t want a 72-year-old president.