My friend Millie is quite a bit older than I - in fact, she's old enough to be my mother. Somehow, though, I always think of her as a contemporary. She's stylish, fit, active in all aspects of life, and she keeps a schedule that makes me tired just thinking about it! Millie is one of my musical mentors...she taught me everything I know about playing handbells, shepherded my acceptance into Classical Bells, encouraged me to do all the kinds of things I didn't think were possible. We've traveled together, lived together, shared lots of laughs over hot coffee in the morning and glasses of wine in the evening.
Although I no longer perform with Classical Bells, Millie and I are stand partners in our church bell choir, a group she herself directed for many years (played in and directed at the same time, I might add, and that's no mean feat!)
Last Sunday we played in church for the first time this year, and I was forced to accept something I've been noticing for a while.
She's not as sharp as she used to be.
Oh, she's fine in rehearsal, but when the pressure of performance time hits, and she gets a little flustered, things go wrong. She loses her place, or picks up the wrong bell, and then she gets more flustered and perhaps turns two pages. And then, it's pretty hard to recover.
Now you'd never guess it to look at her, or listen to her speak, but my friend Millie is 72 years old. And when you reach that age, it's pretty inevitable that the brain synapses aren't going to fire as rapidly as they once did, that change is going to be a bit harder to handle, that stress is going to take a bigger toll than it once did.
So, why am I telling you all these things about my best friend, whom I love so dearly?
Because the man who could be President of this country is also 72 years old. Should he be elected, in the ensuing four years he will face unparalleled stresses on his mind and body. People aren't talking a lot about the age factor in this election, but they should be. A man that age, particularly one who has already suffered some pretty significant health problems, has absolutely no business running a country, especially one in huge crisis.
When my friend is pressured, gets flustered, and loses her place, it's not a big deal.
But if it happens to the leader of the free world, it's a very big deal indeed.