Why McCain’s Age Is An Issue

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - July 23, 2008
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Here’s why I think age is an issue in the presidential contest between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama:

Reason No 1: I am well into my 65th year. Let’s just say my wife, Gloria, known by some as the high-strung Filipina, is younger than I - but not a lot.

Watching a DVD, our conversation often goes something like this:

She, “Dad (I ain’t her Dad.), what’s the name of that actor?”

Me: “Oh gee, I know. We saw him in a ... a ... oh, that film about Marines in the first Gulf War.”

Her: “Yes. What was the name of that movie?”

Me: “I can’t remember. I remember all that sand, but no fighting and they were frustrated.”

Twenty minutes later, or two days later, one of us will remember either the actor’s name or the movie’s name - seldom both.

The high-strung Filipina worries about such things and, as is her manner, deals with them. She’s read that doing crossword puzzles staves off loss of memory, so in the morning she attacks the Advertiser’s crossword - in the afternoon the Star-Bulletin’s.

As I read the other sections of the paper, she refers all sports and most literary questions to me, as in: “Cardinal’s Slaughter?”

“Enos,” say I.

A minute later, “Yankees’ blank of Swat?”

“I don’t know,” I respond. But I do. I just $%)_@# can’t remember. So I’ve learned to say I don’t know. Two hours later it comes to me: the “Sultan of Swat,” aka Babe Ruth.

Reason No. 2: It now takes me a minimum of three tries to get out of the house in the morning: the first time because I forgot my walking shoes; the second time because I forgot the stack of blue books I finished correcting (finally), last night; the third time because I forgot my thumb drive with the first four paragraphs of my next column on it.

Phyllis, my mother-in-law, has been heard to say: “It sure takes Daniel a long time to leave.“Yep.

Reason No. 3: My contemporaries, give or take a few years in either direction, are just as bad off. For example, I have a friend of 40 years standing, smart guy - well-educated, a professional man seemingly at the top of his game. He’s a couple of years older than I.

We’ll start trading stories of our youthful indiscretions. “Dan, remember that time in Kuching we went to the club ... ?”

Well, I’ll spare you the sordid details, particularly in his rendering of the story because MidWeek is a family publication and because he’s getting the stories all wrong - stories we’ve repeated to one another so often over the years that, until recently, we could recite them word-for-word, sigh-by-sigh, with inflections in all the right places.

At least, I think it’s he who’s getting them wrong.

But I’ll never correct him. He’s an old friend, of many years, and you don’t remind an old friend of many years that they are failing.

Reason No. 4: Everybody I know in my mid-60ish set is in the same boat, mumbling with embarrassment through our conversations about a “senior moment” here, or an attack of “early Alzheimer’s” there. Oh, there are those older folks who stun us with the acuity of their minds - people like University of Hawaii professor Izzy Abbott and longtime activist Ah Quan McElrath who, in their late 80s and early 90s, put me and my 60ish friends to shame.

But my friends and I live with the adventure of getting through an evening trying to remember the name of a politician or a classmate or a movie star or ... whateva.

In the dark night of our aging, human souls, we worry a little about our fading memories, of course, and that is why age will be an issue in this presidential campaign. McCain is eight years older than I.

Then again, McCain and my friends and I could shake it off and argue that what we’ve lost in memory we’ve gained in wisdom.

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