There is something elegant about numbers. They’re so indisputable and clean as in a geometric proof. So absolute and unforgiving and yet they so often lie.
Trump says he won in a landslide but he also lost in a landslide. Professional sports franchises report annual losses yet they sell for two or three times the purchase price. When Obama was president Trump said the 4.6% unemployment figure was fake and actually 40% but now that he’s in office he has declared the low number is real.
Nowhere are numbers more meaningless than when assigned to age. Calendars are the supreme fiction. Shari, my eldest daughter, was born sixty years ago, next month, yet that does not compute. Nor can Lauren be fifty-seven in May and Janice, my baby, be fifty-five later this year. None of the above are true.
When I was twenty-nine with three children I was functionally in my forties. By age forty-seven, having met Peggy, I was back in my twenties. I’ve known people who are the same age their entire life. They either never grow up or are wizened in their teens.
Peggy will be ninety-six in three weeks but we all know this is either a mathematical anomaly or proof that date of birth has no bearing on age. I've seen 96 in movies. It is enfeebled and crotchety. Those words do not apply. True, her bones have lost some density and her height a few inches but her spirit is robust as ever, her creativity still in its prime and her faculties in fine fettle (whatever that means).
The daily poem she writes is not only a measure of her imaginative power, it both issues from and replenishes that mysterious inner fountain. The concision required bringing together disparate images and expressing it in fresh, arresting language must somehow charge her organs into renewed life.
What is your secret, people ask. She says it’s good genes. If we’re in a restaurant I want to say, Better go have what she’s having. It has no number on the menu just as Peggy is of no age.
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