The following is Peter Kugel’s annual contribution to 80-something.
On Tuesday, I’ll be 90. People will congratulate me and I’ll thank them. But I’ll be puzzled.
What they’re congratulating me for (having stayed on this side of the grass for ninety years) is mostly the work of others. So why are people congratulating me?
Why aren’t they congratulating the author of the 80-something blog, my doctors, my friends my genes or my luck?
In 1936, Peter Kugel was a 6-year-old boy living in Berlin, Germany. He spoke German, collected stamps and, like any German 6-year-old, adored Adolph Hitler.
That boy is gone. He stopped loving Hitler when he found out how Hitler felt about him. Today’s Peter Kugel can’t speak or understand German. If he met the six-year-old Peter Kugel, they wouldn’t understand each other.
I’m not the 6-year-old German. And that’s probably a good thing. The stamps that fascinated the 6-year-old would bore me today and the discussions about medical procedures that fascinate the 90-year-old that I’ll be on Tuesday, would have bored the 6-year-old boy.
As I brushed my teeth this morning I wondered what I would do if I was given the chance to live one more day and I had to decide to live it as either the young boy I was in 1936, knowing only what I knew then, or live it as the old man I am today.
I think I’d ask them to bend the rules and let me have both.