Kent Bernhardt: Aging gracefully

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2018

Kent Bernhardt

Someone told me the other day that “I was aging gracefully.”

I have no idea what that means — or if it’s even a compliment. I’ll assume for the moment that it was.

Aging isn’t something we like to think about until we’re hit with three fatal diseases and realize we won’t be doing it much longer. Then it doesn’t seem so bad. But how does one “age gracefully”?

I’m personally acquainted with people I believe are doing it quite nicely. And it has nothing to do with the date of birth listed on their driver’s license. That’s just a number.

I know young people in their 80s, and I know old people in their 30s, if that makes any sense. Some people just have “it.” The years pass and they never seem to lose that youthful quality they’ve always had.

At the risk of angering the plastic surgery industry — and I don’t wish to do that because they have knives — I believe you can remove every wrinkle on a face, and in a lot of cases all you have is an old person with smooth skin.

Gone is any facial evidence they’ve been around awhile, but that doesn’t translate to instant youth.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to stand just a few feet away from Wayne Newton. I don’t think I’m revealing any secrets by telling you that Wayne’s “had some work done.”

In fact, I’m pretty sure he opted for the super-duper, spare-no-expense, sand-blast special.

I felt a bit sorry for Wayne. His voice told me he was older now, but his face was so smooth, so tight, it seemed to hurt him to smile. And to be honest, the man standing before me just didn’t look like Wayne Newton.

Still, he put on quite a show the night I met him, and that showmanship is what made me believe he was still young, not the plastic surgery.
Youth knows no age.

Not long ago, my daughter had the opportunity to meet and chat with Dick Van Dyke. The man we knew as Rob Petrie on TV during the 1960s will turn 93 on his next birthday.
“His smile was bright, his eyes just lit up, and I’ve never met a friendlier man in my life,” she reported.

She added there was no real physical attempt to hide the years. He had all the cracks and crevices you’d expect in a 92-year-old man, but his youthful spirit kept you from noticing. As a result, she became a huge fan of the master showman all over again. We chatted recently, and she’s binge-watching all of his old TV shows.

When I was a child, “old” people told me to stay off of their lawn. “Young” people — who just happened to be the same physical age — welcomed children into their yards and homes because they enjoyed the sound of their laughter. I remember some of them so well.

I suppose that’s what aging gracefully is. Maybe it’s what we do with our lives and how we relate to everyone around us that keeps us from feeling and maybe even looking old.

Maybe it’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that really matters.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury. He still acts 17.

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