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  • Mark Lavie

Thoughts about turning 75

“It’s just a number.”

That’s what I’ve been saying for years to people grumbling about turning 70, 60, 40, even 30.

So is 75 just a number? Not for me. It’s a beginning. Several, in fact.

Some of these beginnings are ordinary and predictable. Like, why did I go into this room? What did I want to tell my wife? Where did I put my keys?

The author turned 75 on Sept. 11. He hasn't written this book yet.

I’m still at the beginning of my professional transition. It’s becoming clearer now.

I’ve been officially retired for eight years. I haven’t been a working journalist in Israel since 2011, when I moved myself to Cairo, in protest and desperation over the state of journalism in general and the behavior of journalists in Israel. I was on the board of the Foreign Press Association for about 10 years. Now there are few journalists here who even know who I am.

I’m fine with that. It’s a beginning, a result of my divorce from a profession I devoted my life to and the abruptly walked away from in 2014. It was no longer the profession I signed up for. I’ve written often about what that means, and here’s one example—an article in Tablet about how I was banned from reporting on my discovery of Israel’s 2008 peace offer to the Palestinians, the worst professional travesty I’ve ever been a part of.

Finally, at 75, I’m beginning to let go of some of the anger. I was having coffee with a wise colleague a while back, and we were complaining bitterly about how journalism has changed for the worse since we started out together in the ‘60’s.

“What can we do to fix it?” I asked.

“Nothing,” my cooler-headed friend replied. “We gave it our best shot. Now it’s up to the youngsters.”

At 75, it’s time to begin taking that seriously. What I can do is write analytical articles, an effort to use my decades of first-hand experience to get some important messages across. Here are links to recent ones at The Media Line.

But that’s as far as I want to go. At 75, I am beginning to direct my energies toward other things—instead of tilting at windmills to try to get my articles published in big-name papers, or parlay them into speaking engagements, or interviews about my books. That infuriates some of my friends, who believe I deserve a larger audience. Maybe I do, but if I’ve never been much of a self-promoter up to now, I’m not going to start, beginning at 75.

“Other things” like showing up for my kids and grandkids. I missed so much because of my profession. For 14 years, I was a one-person radio news bureau for two major North American networks, working and on call 24/6. Then I moved to The Associated Press, where I worked from noon to midnight. Finally, two years in Cairo. I wasn’t there to enjoy my adult kids and play with my grandkids. Now they trip over “Saba Mark.”

Our four kids are all grown up, established, successful, contributing to society. For them my work, if you can call it that, is done. The beginning now is to sit back and enjoy the show.

And I get to spend more time with my wonderful wife, Ruth. She keeps me young. She laughs at my jokes and bits, even ones she’s seen or heard before. She inspires me with her dedication to her bar and bat mitzvah students.

I left her alone here for two years while I worked in Cairo to wrap up my career, and I never heard a complaint. She is so relentlessly positive that it spills over onto me. So yes, I’m a lucky guy.

I’m beginning to accept that I’m not so young anymore. When I appear in my own dreams, I’m usually about 35. That’s except for a recurring dream when I’m back at university, sitting down to take a final exam for a course I forgot I signed up for.

There are other recurring dreams—I have to take a final exam, but I can’t find the room where it’s being given. Or I’m in my late 20s, at my job as a news anchor at Israel Radio, carrying my script for a newscast (back when we typed them out on paper), but I can’t find the studio where the broadcast is originating.

These dreams have a common thread, I think—loss of control. I’m an obsessive control freak, but only when it comes to myself.

Now, suddenly, I’m 75. This should be the beginning of letting go a bit. Maybe not everything needs to go through that control panel in my head. Maybe some things can come spontaneously now.

And 75 is a beginning where, practically speaking, I can start to see the end. I hope to hang around long enough to see how things turn out with our kids and grandkids, and help them for as long as I can.

I understand it’s impractical to hope that I’ll see everything through to a conclusion, though I’m in good health, thanks to clean living and a couple of medical miracles, one in particular.

There will be an end, sooner or later. I know that. My challenge is to concentrate not on the end, but on the beginning.

Now—where did I put my keys?

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