This Is Seventy
By Robin Jovanovich
On Election Day, which had the nerve to coincide with my 70th birthday, my grandson asked me how many presidents I’d lived under. I guessed 12, forgetting that Truman was still running the country in 1950. The 6-year-old’s next question was: Did I think it was okay for a president to keep running? (Not in this guy’s case, I said under my breath.) He then went on to tell me that it wasn’t okay for Martin Von Buren and laughed heartily.
Is he watching the History Channel when he’s supposed to be doing his homework or taking those One-Day University courses on the Q.T.? Is he thinking of running for President or is he sticking with his plan of playing for the Yankees? He was, after all, sporting a Babe Ruth costume on Halloween.
I was trying to focus on anything other than the 2020 Election, but the kid kept coming back with more questions. Could I name all the vice-presidents? Probably not, other than the egregiously awful ones, I acknowledged. Spiro Agnew, the only vice-president forced to resign! Andrew Johnson, a close second.
He wanted details. What’s a genteel synonym for scumbag? I wondered.
Since he was all ears, I wanted to assure him that I had never voted for Richard Nixon but had to admit that when Nixon was on news panels, especially close to an election, I hung on his every word. He was highly intelligent, unlike many of the presidents who served after him, I said soberly. I glided past some of the losers I had pulled the lever for.
I switched to Jimmy Carter, whom I voted for enthusiastically in 1976. “I interviewed him, you know,” I recalled proudly, remembering how Carter looked me in the eye and really listened to my probably sophomoric questions for a woman’s magazine.
“Did you ever talk to any football players?” my grandson asked, forcing me out of my reverie.
“Let’s finish with the presidents, shall we. President Carter is still alive. He’s a good man, a man of faith. He lives in Georgia, which is a battleground state…”
I never should have introduced the word battleground. That led to a meandering lecture on blue states/red states, on-the-fence states, and states heading towards rack and ruin, which made me want to plunk him down in front of cable news shows that would drill right down on the subject. That way I could go pour myself a celebratory glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and savor a few rare minutes of quiet.
When my grandson asked if I had met any really great presidents, “like Lincoln or Washington, who are both on Mt. Rushmore, along with Jefferson and the other president who our teacher says many can’t name as quickly…” I realized I was in trouble. How ancient does this imp think I am? I can still beat him at Battleship, Clue, Ping-Pong, and Cribbage. However, it’s glaringly apparent that if I don’t start boning up on state birds and flowers, vice presidents, and Tom Brady’s touchdown to interception ratio, he is going to leave me in the dust.
Speaking of dust, it’s a serious step for a woman, especially a Baby Boomer, to enter her eighth decade. It’s looking like my disco dancing days are over, even if we make it through the pandemic.
Before another year passes, I’m signing up for one of those online Memory Tune-up courses and researching games a 70-year-old has a chance of trouncing a 6-year-old at.
Let the senior games begin!