Old Age and the Presidents | Mark’s Remarks

I love reading and talking about the presidents of old. My daughter is learning about the presidents in her kindergarten class, and we spent a good deal of time the other evening talking about George Washington’s teeth and the feud between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

She’s still at that age where she is interested in her dad’s discussions. I’ll savor it while I can.

Just for a bit of library (bathroom) reading, I grabbed one of my many books on the presidents and read a bit of John Adam’s correspondence with Jefferson. If you know much about them, you will know they were loving friends at one time, devoted to one another and almost like family. They became bitter political rivals later on, only to reconcile and renew their friendship as old men.

The letters they wrote in their old age are priceless, entertaining, and wonderful.

Adams was a cantankerous and pompous old cuss, but he remains one of my all-time favorite presidents (probably because he was a cantankerous, pompous old cuss). I love reading some of his dry-wit laden remarks and humorous anecdotes, probably told or written with a straight face.

In one of his letters to Jefferson, he bemoans the infirmities and the problems of growing older. Although written in the flowery style of a past century, the reader can still decipher and surmise that Adams thought growing older was not for sissies.

Jefferson agreed in one letter, and I’m sure he gave Adams a chuckle when he wrote: “But our machines have now been running for 70 or 80 years, and we must expect that, worn as they are, here a pivot, there a wheel, now a pinion, next a spring, will be giving way. And however we may tinker them up for a while, all will at last surcease motion.”


Aging surprises me. Weird things hurt. Hair grows in strange places. The other day, I went to the mirror and saw this long, white hair hanging out of my nose! After my horror and disgust subsided, I furiously plucked it out and then laughed until my sides split. What the heck?  Weird little tufts of hair grow on the tops of my ears and I buzz it off with the beard clippers from time to time.

Speaking of that beard, it was mostly red-tinted about 10 years ago. It now comes in whiter and whiter each time I shave it off. As I’ve said before, being Santa’s helper could totally be in my future, especially if I continue to eat like a right jolly old elf.

Things have started to affect me differently than they used to. I’m told that your nervous system continues to change as you grow older. Whoopee! No wonder older folks sometimes seem more impatient and have a shorter fuse. I get it.
I can’t make it through the night without having to get up at least once. If I make it to 5 a.m., I consider it a gift. My legs and feet fall asleep a lot when they are kept in the same position for too long. It’s something I’ve recently noticed.  Cricks in my neck and bones crop up unexpectedly.  My feet hurt.

And I’m nowhere near the age of Adams and Jefferson.

My 5-year old is rather outspoken at times, and Michelle heard her in a “My Dad” conversation with her good friend the other day. “My dad is 33,” said the friend. Not one to be outdone, my daughter retorted, “Well my dad is like 89.”

Yes, my dear, there are indeed days when your daddy feels as if he’s been around for that long.

No offense to anyone who IS 89, of course.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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