Old fogey

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis called her daughter Caroline’s husband ‘egghead’ and said he was a ‘boring old fogey’ behind his back, according to reports.

The former First Lady’s name calling was a result of her mistrust of Ed Schlossberg, who is 12 years older than Caroline. Her open contempt for Mr Schlossberg ended when Caroline threatened to cut Jackie off from her grandchildren.

Years ago I recall being tickled pink by a comic observation – perhaps by John Mortimer or P. G. Wodehouse of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster fame – regarding an elderly British gentleman who “had retired to the country with his book and his bottle“. Though now I think of it, the quip may have been the invention of Edward Gibbon or Thomas Babington Macaulay. No matter. It was in my estimation a discrete and elemental reduction! One could almost picture the languorous withdrawing room. I confess the succinct prescription had immediate appeal as I contemplated the wayward vacancy of idleness and inebriation. It spoke of merited devotion and domestic simplicity.

Importantly too it constituted a recognition of, and an anodyne against, the inescapable passage to old age. In the process of my declension I am discovering that the magnitude of the approaching peril – I have yet to allow it is already here – is rendered considerably more digestible if softened by a measure of indolence. The other day for example when chatting with an acquaintance I caught myself abruptly uttering, “I’ve got to sit down!” This simple ejaculation I would normally not have made for two reasons. One, I didn’t normally have to sit down; and, two, now I do. My knees, back and ribs are wearing me!

Impending decay is an uninviting vision. Less universal but more inviting is the boon of old age. The sheer audacity to proclaim one’s torpidity! I have sought “in my own small way” to strengthen inactivity by succumbing to things I like to do, admittedly a small compliment. I nonetheless practically subside to hear those words – things I like to do! From these amateur and “unprofitable” preoccupations – reading, writing, bicycling, piano, music, photography and motoring – I now seek to palliate my uselessness. No mistake, however, I haven’t room for extraneous assessment. This is a matter of prerogative – yet another of the entitlements of old age.