Jun 09

89, and it’s not so fine


June 9
I’m saddened, but not surprised, by the resignation of
legendary A.P. White House Correspondent Helen Thomas, who quit in the wake of
remarks she made about Israel. Her suggestion that Israel should ‘…get
out of Palestine’ and its inhabitants return to their countries of origin
provoked an understandable outrage. As a result, a stellar career and
reputation has been tarnished.

Ironically, though, her remarks didn’t kill Helen’s career.
Her unwillingness to retire did. One has to know when to say when, and Helen
didn’t.

I know 89. My mom passed away at the age of 89 and my dad is
a very feisty 89. Eighty-nine is no picnic. From what I’ve seen of 89, it’s a
time in life without filters.

My mom was a great example. Up until she reached the age of
80, my mom would have qualified as a saint. She never hesitated to help others
or speak well of them. Once she hit 80, though, all bets were off. As her health
and quality of life declined so, too, did the filters. All of a sudden, people,
places and things she used to either praise or at least ignore, became front
and center for a vitriolic tirade. At the end, she was reduced to merely
registering her contempt with the sorry state of the world and the individuals
who had ruined our country (note: she would have had a field day with Tony
Hayward of BP).

My dad is different. He’s extremely sharp mentally and
physically as he nears his 90
th birthday. What’s changed, though, is
his awareness of what is and isn’t appropriate to say in public places. And,
that can cause challenges for a man whose political views make Rush Limbaugh
seem like a bleeding-heart liberal. When we take ‘pop-pop’ out to lunch or dinner,
for example, our entire family is on high alert. We never know if he’ll make a
pass at a waitress, posit his views about Brown vs. the Board of Education of
Topeka, Kansas, or just hurl invectives in the general vicinity of any TV set
near the bar.

Helen Thomas said what was on her mind. She said what had
always been on her mind. But, her internal filters had always prevented her
from say anything in public. Then, along came 89. And, it wasn’t so fine.

Knowing when to say when is critically important to one’s
image and reputation. Now, instead of being remembered for covering every U.S.
president from JFK to Obama, Ms. Thomas will instead, be vilified as the
reporter who told Israel to get out of Palestine.