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Sarasota’s real rich

This column first appeared in print in 2006.

I know some really rich people here in Sarasota.

George, for example. (That’s his nom de column.) I met George and his wife at a salon-style dinner and discussion group I attend from time to time. He’s a hot ticket.

George is unbelievably au courant when it comes to world happenings. He can discourse on any topic from history to philosophy and religion to politics and sociology. He’s funny and gallant, and seems to know everything there is to know about, well, everything.

He can talk, a lot. But it’s always interesting, I usually learn something, and he always makes me think. I admit to a wee crush on the guy.

Oh, one other thing about George. He’s 94.

And though I haven’t a clue if he lives in a mansion or a shoebox, I know for sure George is really rich.

He’s loaded with the kind of currency that matters most: he’s fabulously rich in mind and spirit. And he’s just one of the similarly loaded acquaintances and friends I’ve made since coming to Sarasota.

I guess I better come clean and say that when I moved here two years ago, I was pretty worried I wouldn’t meet like-minded people, and that friendship would be hard to come by. I knew the demographic skew and assumed that half the population would only be interested in early-bird specials and the other half would reject me outright as a flaming liberal.

I came with a bias and all I can say is I was wrong … at least about the first half.

Instead, I’ve stumbled across a mind-blowing contingent of inspiring folks in their sixties, seventies, and eighties-plus, who are charming, erudite, thoughtful, sexy, confident, intelligent, and very humorous.

And they’ve extended a kind of friendship that has come to mean a great deal to me.

They’ve talked with me as equals. They’ve had me over for drinks. They’ve included me on their party lists.

They’re generous too – they patiently (most of the time) explain things to me that I know nothing about. Usually, it’s all I can do to keep up with them when we’re seated around a table and they’re all expounding on topics ranging from the Great Depression to Darfur.

But don’t go thinking they’re all sweetie-pies playing nice. These people talk seriously and debate vigorously. They don’t hold back. They can crack sarcastic asides with the ease of Jon Stewart and occasionally put Chris Rock to shame with their ribaldry.

These older people nourish me intellectually and emotionally.

They give me hope about getting older myself.

Like lots of people, sometimes I worry about how I’ll make ends meet when I’m older.
And like many woman, I wonder what my worth will be when the wrinkles leave me looking très Shar Pei.

It’s hard not to wonder every now and then how I’ll have any relevance in a world that dismisses you more every year you age.

But the older men and women I’ve been meeting in Sarasota are showing me that while aging might make you irrelevant to some, it doesn’t have to make you irrelevant to yourself.

They show me that a strong mind can grow stronger still. They give me a determination to be as vitally alive as they are. They give me hope that my mind and spirit will still be willing even when the flesh is not.

These people, with their bifocals and hearing aids, deal everyday with what the Bard described as “the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”

They’re edging ever closer to the ends of their lives.

And in the meantime, they’re graciously giving me an invaluable lesson in how to be alive.

They’re giving me a lesson in richness.

Posted on January 22nd, 2009Comments RSS Feed

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