Choose your role model carefully
The Kansas City Star
don’t like to brag, humility is my strong suit, but I am now ready to be a role model. I have recently accomplished what some of the less fortunate may never achieve. I attained 80.
I now have been in all three stages of man: youth, middle age and “you’re looking good.”
Now that I’m an object of envy, a walking, talking 80-year-old person among an elite God-selected group of smart people who obviously know how to take care of themselves, people ask me, “What did you do right?” I look back: I ate hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, pizza and drank beer. I even did some cigar-smoking and whiskey drinking, as guided by my own role model. Obviously, it all worked.
The role model part is important. I was told long ago by my grade school teacher that I should find a role model and emulate him. I said I didn’t mind finding a role model, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to emulate anybody. She said, no, that’s nothing bad, it just means you find a good person and try to do what he does.
I thought of two good persons, Winston Churchill and Vern Stephens of the St. Louis Browns. Really. They had Browns in St. Louis. This is a true story. I picked Vern Stephens. Then he got traded to the Red Sox and I got upset and changed to Churchill. A good move. He made 80 and cruised on to 90. He would have been 138 Nov. 30.
So I started emulating Churchill and have kept at it. When KU beat Memphis for the national basketball title, a friend and I were watching on TV, and as the game ended we high-fived, and he said, “Rock Chalk Jayhawk!” and I said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
When another friend asked me, “Why do the Chiefs and the Royals always draft so high and finish so low?” I analyzed, “This is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
A book, “Bodyguard of Lies,” pointed out how Churchill lied to fool the Germans about the D-Day invasion. Churchill said the truth is so precious it should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies. That is good for a soldier or newsman to know, that the truth is fine, but like everything else, it can be improved on.
I started to think of myself as Churchillian. One of my favorite Churchill quotes is: “I have never worked a day in my life.”
Amazing. We are so much alike. I have never done that either, hammered something, or lifted something heavy. Of course, he was a government employee, and I was a newspaper employee, but still… He said every day was fun because he saw it as an opportunity to do something big; and me too, pretty much.
I thought about that quote on my last day of employment, when I was retiring from a newspaper that no longer prints, “The Kansas City Kansan,” a popular paper, based on times it got bought. The paper was being sold again on my retirement party day, and there was a festive air as I got ready to leave. I remember thinking, should it be this festive?
As quitting time neared, some employees were moving furniture for a new floor plan, which was normal, and one said, “Bob, help us move this desk.”
Uh oh. A record in the balance. I thought, what would Winston do? I thought about the bodyguard of lies, and said, “Be right with you, soon as I go to the bathroom. I’m feeling sick.” So I washed my hands until they were very clean, came back and was informed, too late, the desk had been moved already. Then I walked out, Churchillian as ever.
Bob Friskel, of Kansas City, Kan., is a retired journalist. To reach him, send email to email@example.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.