OK, I’m old. I can’t hide it anymore. I’ve given up ballet lessons and preparations for the next Boston Marathon, and I no longer need a dinner jacket.

Frankly, after all I’ve seen and done, I’m surprised to be upright when most of those I started this trip with have dropped away. In fact, I now buy sympathy cards by subscribing to an online service that checks the Los Angeles and New York obituaries daily and alerts me when someone I know has passed.

Let’s see, I’ve seen the end of the Great Depression, seen World War II begin and end. I participated in a rather useless way in the Korean War, became a beatnik, an actor, a mediocre bar pianist, a painter, and finally a writer, and now I’m old. Once a dazzling handsome young dancer, I now watch carefully before stepping off a curb. Just last week, an elderly lady offered to help me cross Main Street. Of course, I accepted. Her grip on my arm was firm and strangely comforting. She brought a smile to an “old man’s” lips.

Seriously, I enjoy this passage. I’ve always admired old men. I grew up with them, was taught and nurtured by my father and his boyhood friends who had fought in the Spanish-American War and the Great War. I listened to their stories, sipped their beer and inhaled their smoke.

Just passing by them as they stood at their favorite bar was for me like walking through a museum of historic statuary today. As I join their ranks, I’m grateful to be lucid enough to remember them and their stories, to rub my knee the way they did, to end each day as they taught me, by thanking God for the light and by looking in the mirror each morning to repeat the mantra.

Because I lost my father too early, I sought him at the movies in Herbert Marshall, Clifton Webb, Lionel Barrymore, Walter Huston and Lewis Stone, best remembered as Andy Hardy’s Judge Hardy.

I came to know some who are now “old men” like Mel Brooks, Kirk Douglas, and the “get off my lawn” Clint Eastwood. On my living room screen every night I see surviving friends playing grandfathers, judges and senators and, too often, the dying patients on “Grey’s Anatomy.” I got out just in time to avoid that fate.

Thirty-four years ago, I escaped and made it safely to Maine, a safer haven that is now listed as having the oldest population in America. Whew!

But this past year I find that I have been downgraded. No longer am I classified as a senior citizen, or even gently referred to as an octogenarian. Today, those of my group have become pejoratively labeled as “Old White Men,” a phrase spoken most often by younger progressive women with a hiss. How did this happen?

It happened, as most terrible things do nowadays, in Washington, D.C., when out of a primal mist, a bevy of patriarchal ancients, a moldy coven of rheumy-eyed family men all arose (but for the honey-tongued Lindsay Graham, who remains the Senate’s cutest and most sought after bachelor).

There they sit behind name plates, wagging trembling fingers, nervously trying not to drool or make eye contact, reading through foggy half glasses balanced on the tip of their sunburned noses. It is for those of us who remember a scene right out of a 1940s Frank Capra comedy.

It is sad for this old man to watch two of the “usual suspects,” those prestigious octogenarians, Orrin Hatch and Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who surely have done some good things in life, both once again squinting across a polished table at a frightened young woman.

It’s plain to see that their parched old lips have sipped the Kool-Aid given them by their current leader, and that’s why a young Republican woman was assigned to interrogate Professor Christine Blasey Ford. This, I take it, is an attempt to soften the image they so dread: that of a phlegmy choir of privileged “Old White Men” sitting in judgment of a young Doris Day.

It will, I suspect, fail miserably. Even in their dotage they can surely hear the clicking of hundreds of thousands of heels coming down the marbled halls. Stand up, gentlemen. The future is here and she needs your chair.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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