Ed Harris's 1985 letter to the
Seniors Page of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
It is hard for me to believe that the retired are valued only for their
money. In many cases, by the time we reach sixty-five our heirs enjoy
affluence that allows them to accept without rancor our bumper stickers
that proclaim, as we roll down the Interstates, "WE ARE SPENDING OUR KID'S
INHERITANCE." One eavesdropping friend overheard his offspring, now in
their forties, comment: "I guess the old boy has finally caught on."
Nor are we valued for our award plaques and trophies that at first hung
in prominent places, but are now relegated to the attic. The same goes
for past accomplishments.
Upon joining the ranks of the retired, who for a while I called the Geritol
and Serutan set (until Lawrence also retired), I quickly learned that
my newfound peers have little interest in their past glories, nor mine.
At first acquaintance they will, if asked, give a two-minute summary of
what they did, and that is almost the last you will hear about it. They
seek a new starting place on new level ground. At the golf course, bowling
lanes, and other gathering spots, my companions are from every strata
of accomplishments. Former construction laborers, corporate vice-presidents,
truck drivers, engineers, scientists, all receive equal deference and
respect. Only what you're doing now is relevant.
This is quite different from my early days when older men tended to sit
for hours recounting their glories past. Is it because the accelerating
technical and social changes make our yesterday's pale by comparison?
Or after scrutinizing our yesteryear calendars do we have too little to
be vain about?
The question is not to bring undue self deprecation. For we know the
good we have done; the not-so-good, nature has kindly buried in her archives.
I like the position taken by today's seniors.
I have become a collector of quotations relevant to what we have been
discussing. Here are some of my favorites:
Of course you can't unfry an egg, but there is no law against thinking
If I had my life to live over, I would try to make more mistakes.
I would relax. Be a little less dedicated to a job. Sillier than I have
been on this trip.
I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
In a world in which practically everybody else seems to glorify
the gravity of the
situation, I would rise to glorify the levity of the situation. For I
agree with Will Durant,
who said "Gaiety Is Wiser Than Wisdom."
If I had my life to live over…I would pick more daisies.
—part of a quote from Don Herold.
If I had known that I was going to live so long, I would have taken
better care of myself.
—attributed to George Burns, who I'm sure borrowed from an earlier
"Grandma D., If you're still watching, I suppose you're still waiting
for me to
'Amount to Something.'" —my own.