I am writing this column in advance, so when you read it I will be in Las Vegas, attending my second Aging in America Conference. But I persuaded my wife to join me by promising we would spend the evenings together. And if I spend Sunday evening writing this column instead of spending time with her – lets just say I better have spare cash for a bus ticket home. So I am going to take a short cut and share with you a few words from one of my favorite comedians George Burns, a man of grace, humility and humor. This is the preface from the last book he wrote: 100 years – 100 stories published by Putnam’s Sons in 1996. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Here I am, starting my tenth and probably last book. I may even finish it. Then again, it may finish me.
I know what you’re thinking: That can’t be George Burns saying that. George Burns is an optimist. On his last special, didn’t we all hear him say, “I’ve had a very exciting life. And I expect the second half to be just as exciting”?
You’re right, I did say that. I also said, “When the Man knocks on your door, you have to go. When He knocks on my door, I’m not opening it.” And then I said, “I’m going to stay in show business until I’m the only one left.”
I did a lot of lines like that then, but that was before I fell backward into my bathtub and cracked my head open. Things haven’t been the same. Well, the bathtub is the same. But I’m not.
That doesn’t mean I’m giving up. Far from it. I’m still an optimist. But I’m not stupid. That nurse isn’t watching me all day to see if my toupee is on straight.
Look I’m not complaining. I still get to my office every day, still play a little bridge, still smoke my cigars, still can down a martini or two, and I have to say, I probably watch that nurse more than she watches me. I have lots to be grateful for. When I was singing with the Peewee Quartet ninety-three years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the career I’ve had. It wouldn’t have happened without Gracie. And it wouldn’t have happened without all the loyal fans who stayed with me through the hits and flops, the good jokes and the bad ones.
I can’t put each of you in my will. I can’t even thank you enough. But there is something I can do, and that’s the reason for this book – to leave you with 100 of my best, funniest stories. That’s one for each year. See, I can still count too. When I’ve finished it, I hope it’s a collection you’ll enjoy not only now, but will want to go back to again and again for years to come.
George Burns November 1995
One more thing: While I was writing that last paragraph, the nurse straightened my toupee.
Now the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, Saturday Breakfast is back on the 21st with a big thank-you to this month’s sponsor, Cherry Heights Retirement Community. Breakfast starts at 8:00 and the cost is $5.00 for the general public and $4.00 for Center members. The Jazz Generations will be performing at the Center on Tuesday the 24th starting at 7:00 and on Sunday the 22nd the Jammers will be at the Center from 2:00 – 5:00.
And of special note, the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River as part of the Art Heals – Birth to Death art show continuing through March 29th is hosting several interactive events on March 22nd: Intentional Aging at 2:00; Love is the Reason at 3:00 ; Aging Artfully an inspirational video at 4:00. For more information call 541-387-8877.
Until we meet again, as Kenny Rogers would sing about life “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”.