Sunday night was another example of showing me that old age does not necessarily mean the same for everyone. Not all seniors spend their final years in a nursing home or stuck in a wheelchair where they are dependent on someone else for their food, trips to the bathroom, and help getting bathed and dressed. Some, like our friend Gene, who at an age north of ninety can still drive a car, take themselves out to eat, travel, and perhaps engage in a sport such as golf, never seem as old as the calendar tell us.
Others can paint, learn the fine art of sculpting, and entertain thousands at a time, like Tony Bennett. This past week and weekend I got to know Mr. Bennett by reading his autobiography and then seeing him perform in Charlotte on Sunday night.
We had gone to his show with no expectations, because, well, he is ninety-three years old. I expected his voice to be weak or strained like other aging musicians I have seen, but I was wrong. While he performed for less than ninety minutes, it seemed like much longer because he sang nonstop.
He did not pause to tell an old tale or take a sip of water, but instead, went from song to song with barely a few seconds in between each tune. Nor did he sit, and it was apparent to all that he was thoroughly enjoying the evening as did the packed audience in Charlotte. He smiled a lot as he looked out and up at his adoring fans. He even performed a few dance moves.
His voice was a little raspier than the Tony Bennett on my playlist, but it was still strong. The words of one song in particular were a poignant reminder that the sands of the hourglass have many more grains in the bottom than the top.
Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me
Lingering sunsets, stay a little longer with the lonely sea…
And let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing
And I will stay younger than spring.
After closing with his infamous “I Left my Heart in San Francisco,” he left the stage but returned many more times. While he did not sing an encore, he smiled and waved with appreciation. Yes, I am sure he was tired, but I truly believe he loves what he does and will continue to sing and paint and sculpt until the hourglass is empty.
It was inspiring.