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What’s Today’s Date?


During a recent hospitalization, someone came into my room and asked me that. Without my iPhone close at hand, I panicked for a second. As a 78-year-old, I knew they were checking out my brain power. Then, I looked up at the white board on which the date was clearly written and said it’s right there. I guess my ingenuity was enough to pass the mental status test, because she didn’t go further. But if she had asked me some of the things Special Counsel Robert Hur asked President Biden in his report exonerating Biden of keeping documents from his years as Vice President, I (and most of my very intellectually able friends) would have failed.


If asked out of the blue for either of my parents’ dates of death, as Biden was about his son Beau’s, I would have wavered. Ask me for their birthdates or those of my children and grandchildren and I have no hesitancy. But the date of a family tragedy would be harder. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism, but it would take me a few minutes to associate the death of a loved one with something else. My father died just after the 4th of July (July 5) and right before my niece’s wedding, so that would be 2012. My mother died April 18 or 19, depending on when she was officially pronounced dead. It was just before or after midnight. It happened in 2015 because I remember coming home to attend a family party where I was comforted by my daughter’s family. I do clearly remember my granddaughters’ hugs.


While exonerating Biden of the crime he was investigating, Robert Hur's report also said Biden presented himself in interviews with investigators "as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory" and noted several instances in which the president had trouble recalling specific dates. Even though Trump faces 91 indictments, is guilty of rape and all sorts of business cheating, is only three years younger than Biden, and has made too many incoherent and false statements for me to document, somehow, he is not perceived as “old” the way Biden is. Also, MAGA fanatics don’t seem to care that Trump lacks Biden’s empathy and kindness.  


As we age, nouns become harder to access. Rob Reiner, age 76, joked that he was starting a game show for seniors called “Name That Noun.” I have a friend who records Jeopardy and pauses it to give herself time to recall the answer. She usually knows it but needs a few more seconds than the younger contestants. While my husband and I don’t do that, we are often amazed that very smart younger contestants have no idea about things like the origin of the folk song Marching to Pretoria. Originally, it was sung by British soldiers during the Boer War in the late 19th century as they marched to Pretoria, South Africa. My husband and I immediately began to sing the version made popular by The Weavers in the 1950s, which we both sang in grade school. The contestants were too young to know the song or its origins, although they may have known more about the Boer War than we did.


But even funnier, in the category 40 Years Ago, 1984, when shown a picture of Scott Hamilton winning the Olympic gold medal, a contestant identified him as Mary Lou Retton. So, there’s being very book smart but not old enough to know what happened at the 1984 Olympics, which I remember very well.


There is something to be said for the wisdom that comes with experience and age. When President Biden spoke about his anger over the “gotcha” question about his son’s death by saying: “I am well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve been President. I put this country back on its feet,” I wanted to shout “right on.” Of course, that’s also something only people of a certain age would say.






by Laurie Levy
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