April 13, 2005

Too Old to Die Young

You measured your dwindling chances for glory by the great ones you’d outlived. First you outlived Keats, but almost everyone else had, too. Almost no one would have amounted to anything if they hadn’t outlived Keats. (That was the year you got your first promotion.) Then you outlived Jesus, then Byron and Pushkin and Dylan Thomas and Martin Luther King, but there were still plenty who wouldn’t have amounted to anything if they hadn’t survived their thirties. (That was the year you bought the country cottage.) Then came the big 44, by the end of which you’d outlived Chekhov and Stevenson and Lawrence and Fitzgerald. (That was the year your daughter starred in the school play.) Two Kennedys and a Kerouac before long. (That was the year you drove her off to college.)

And then came the day when you’d outlived Shakespeare, and when you’ve done that, there are no more excuses.