A writer offers a personal perspective on aging.
In relating the stages of life to the quarters of a business year, Kaufman (On the Road to Halicz, 2016, etc.) appropriately labels his own situation the “fourth quarter,” a time that “is full, rich and a regrouping exercise.” With a certain amount of wistfulness combined with wry humor, the 90-year-old author serves a poignant, wide-ranging, first-person narrative that addresses the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of aging. He also discusses and reacts to some of the subjects that can be both fascinating and perplexing to old and young alike, including artificial intelligence, globalization, and medical technology. Kaufman’s informal style is engaging, especially when he reflects on the realities of aging. He observes, for example, that he is always surprised by “everybody trying not to accept this rusted mechanism called age.” His descriptions can be downright funny when he considers “the little whammies” that happen to the elderly, such as having “a brigade catering to my health….Practically every little piece of me has a specialist.” Behind the humor is insight into the harshness of longevity. He notes, for instance, that “it is puzzling to see the tremendously accumulated” and invaluable “knowledge of the aged being disregarded and squandered.” But later, the author exudes optimism: “Age has its sunny spots too. Lots of them. One of them is to talk to toddlers, children and young people.” These somewhat contradictory pearls of wisdom are representative of a time of life that can be simultaneously hopeful and hopeless, which Kaufman fully acknowledges. While his astute observations make for intellectually stimulating content, this long essay is for the most part a broad conversation that abruptly moves from one subject to another in an almost stream-of-consciousness fashion. The writing is a bit sloppy at times, but it doesn’t mar the author’s sincerity. Kaufman speaks directly to others who are living in the “Fourth Quarter,” and it is hard not to embrace his exhortation to “live it up in any shape and manner.…Go out and start some fires. It is invigorating.”
A spirited, perceptive, and honest look at longevity.