Several things for this holiday so let’s get started.
The Fourth of July traditionally means lots of sunshine and outdoor activity – a day of parades, backyard barbecues and fireworks. But for about 90 percent of the U.S., I’m pretty sure that’s not as inviting this year as it usually is.
In fact, take a look at this report last week from meteorologist Aaron Justis of CBS 6 News in Richmond, Virginia, keeping his viewers informed about the Armageddon weather in his part of the country.
And he did it all with a straight face. Fantastic.
(Okay, the further joke is that this was done off air in the studio a year ago and it never was broadcast. Doesn’t matter – it’s still fun.)
Even if you don’t count the continuing forest fires in Colorado and the terrible storms in the east that felled trees, smashed homes and killed at least 22 people, the unremitting high temperatures over the past ten days or two weeks would be likely to keep people indoors next to the air conditioner today – that is, if they have power.
I don’t mean to rub it in (well, maybe I do), but take a look at this July 4 temperature forecast map from Accuweather:
See that yellow part with a smattering of green in the upper left corner? That’s my part of the country, near Portland, Oregon, and we haven’t yet had more than two or three days when the thermometer reached higher than 70. Since my personal temperature preference is between 65F to 75F, I’m in high clover.
Since 2010, the fourth of July has taken on an additional significance for me. Today is the second anniversary of the death of a giant among elder advocates, Dr. Robert N. Butler.
You could call him a mentor to aging in general – the man who coined the term ageism giving that idea substance and force it did not have before. A man whose 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Why Survive? is still required reading for anyone intent on understanding what getting old is really like. And the man who created the first department of geriatric medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.
Dr. Butler was a visionary who radically changed for the better what aging is like in America and in large swaths of the world. Among his many accomplishments was founding the International Longevity Center (now a part of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University).
Each year, the Center holds the Age Boom Academy, a five-day, intensive seminar to educate a dozen journalists about today’s most challenging issues and new research related to aging and longevity. In 2009, I was honored to be invited to attend and hardly anything I have written here since then has not informed by what I learned.
So, on the fourth of July, I celebrate our country’s founding and I honor the memory of Dr. Butler.
Of course, it’s not the fourth of July without fireworks. Yes, I know this is the 2011/12 new year’s display in London and maybe it’s a little weird, on the U.S. national holiday, to have Big Ben in the foreground, but it’s just so damned beautiful. And anyway, our countries have been friends now for a long time.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Quilter at Heart