Thoughts On the Hearing of Some News

The death of actor Donald Sutherland caused me to think and reflect for a number of reasons.

I will always remember his role in the movie “Ordinary People.” I will always consider him a principled man and remember how he protested the Vietnam war alongside Jane Fonda. And I have appreciated him for the fact that he never played the “movie star” role and despite his 6’4” height was always modest and not self-promoting. Of the 4 lead actors in “Ordinary People,” three were nominated for Academy Awards, not including him. And he deserved it most of all, but never complained.

But there is another reason I found myself reflecting on this news. Donald Sutherland died at age 88, and I myself am age 88. And I am still alive.

In fact, I feel very much alive. So far this week I have swum 5 miles, ridden my bicycle 86 miles, and walked a lot. I have swum across the Chesapeake Bay 10 times, all since the age of 70. I read over 100 books a year. I still write stories and poems and things for  I still have . . . (oops, no, someone would say “too much information.”)

My doctor suggested a checkup with a cardiologist a few months back. The cardiologist did an EKG and a stress test and basically told me not to bother him anymore because he has unhealthy people to care for, and I am not one of them.

I was born in 1936 so I cannot deny being 88. But I do not feel old or think old, and I try not to act old. I think of myself as a normal person and not In some special category. Some others of us 88s that you know of include Julie Andrews, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Johnny Mathis, and Phil Donahue. Pope Francis will join us in December. He and most of this list are still doing well in the world.

Still, Brother Sutherland has reminded me that my exit is not only possible, not only probable, but clearly inevitable. Thank you, Sir. One day I will remind someone else the very same way you have.

This being so, I do resent the sentiment I sometimes encounter, that an 88 person is on his way out and in a different category of living persons. Living, but barely, in some people’s view. Last year I made an appointment to see a urologist at a famous hospital in Baltimore. I won’t call the name but if you Google “famous hospital in Baltimore” it will come up in big bold letters. Nearly laughing, the young doctor told me that “we don’t treat people your age.” We. I left shaking my 88-year-old head. I have since found a fine urologist who does treat people “my age.”

When I was a young boy in Tennessee, there were doctors who would say to some potential patients, “we don’t treat people your color.” Today I assume that isn’t acceptable. But somewhere in Baltimore your age can still disqualify you.

I admit to wishing for an age beyond 88. I have a loving wife and family and many friends. I am as happy as I have ever been, especially remembering those years of middle age. But I have already had a good life, as did Brother Sutherland. All is well . . . and will be well.


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3 thoughts on “Thoughts On the Hearing of Some News”

  1. What a great perspective Ed. And a beautiful way to turn this into a story about life, not just death. Though I’m 22 years younger, doctors have, on numerous occasions when I ask about aches and pains, broken bones, joints out of place, etc., responded with, “Well, you are 66.” Like you, I remain very active with my biking and volleyball (exclusively lefty at this point because of serious injuries to my right shoulder), and can run and ride with the youngsters. I wonder when we as a society, and the medical profession particularly, will recognize that getting older doesn’t have to equate with an inability to remain as healthy as we can make ourselves.

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