So, let’s not talk about how old Dick Van Dyke is, because when we do I feel like we’re tempting fate. But, suffice it to say, he definitely qualifies as a senior citizen. Even if he is a senior citizen who moves like this:
But, as his newest autobiography shows, that’s simply in years only.
Filled with advice like “…the scripture says you should put aside childish things when you grow up. I take that to mean willfulness, self-centeredness, and things like that – not imagination, creativity, and joyful curiosity,” Keep Moving is filled with wit and wonder. Van Dyke’s humor and way with words is evident from the very start, but, even as he advises that you don’t take things too seriously, you can tell that he took writing this book pretty seriously:
“As the instigator of the Gray Revolution, I suggest ignoring the anti-aging tips that are so prevalent in the media and search(ing) for pro-aging tips. I want to see more older people celebrated for continuing to be vital and active as role models. I want to see experience valued. I want to see older people appreciated in the work force. I would like to see more people sixty-five and up in the movies and on TV in roles other than commercials targeting memory loss, heart disease, diabetes, urinary problems, arthritis, cancer, depression, insomnia, anxiety, high cholesterol, erectile dysfunction and Crohn’s disease. And put older people behind the camera too. … I have a feeling that Baby Boomers get this and they’ll rewrite the rules, making the concept of old ages as it has been known, obsolete. Stereotypes of old people as frail, forgetful, boring, cranky, sick, unattractive and unproductive will be replaced by pictures of 80-year-olds scaling mountains, starting new businesses, going back to school, creating great art, discovering new talents and passions, and figuring out new ways to improve life’s twilight years.”
If anybody’s up for that, it’s definitely Van Dyke.
One thing I really admired about the book (as somebody with chronic illnesses who is sick of reading how you can just ‘positive attitude’ your way through life) is that Van Dyke doesn’t deny that there are limitations and realities that have to be faced; he doesn’t suggest that singing and dancing your way through life (his preferred means of ‘playing with his inner child’) is going to keep you healthy, or that being active is going to solve all your problems. Instead, he just says that doing so helps you stay afloat, especially when things get hard. He’s faced his own health challenges, and talks a bit about having to create a new normal, of embracing new ways of keeping young. And most of all, to just keep trying.
Along with being creative, and kind, the major take-aways from the book for me were his insistence that asking questions, almost constantly, is one of the most vital life skills to cultivate. Ask questions of yourself, of your life, of those around you – never settle, always have curiosity. Realize that you will encounter pain and loss and suffering, and that you just have to – somehow – find it in you to keep your heart open, even knowing that truth. (Yeah: that’s a struggle all around, Dick., but it’s always encouraging to hear of people who manage it.)
He also manages an interesting year-by-year account (and grading) of his life and times, including, but not limited to “avoiding the front lines: A; me as a soldier: C”; meeting the Beatles with his daughters while finishing up Mary Poppins, and them remembering his daughters’ names (A); starting a new show, with a different leading lady (other than the wonderful MTM) in 1971 and having a woman in the grocery store hit him with her purse and learning ‘thou shalt not cheat – even on your TV wife’ (B); Various wars (from WWII onward) (all Fs); and same sex marriage “If one thing is clear from the dawn of human history, nothing is more powerful than love. Love is here to stay” (A).
There wasn’t anything in here that wasn’t either informative, entertaining, enlightening or all three. It was an excellent (and quick) read. Got any bookworm grandmothers on your list? I only ask because both of mine would have loved this, and I think yours – and you – probably will too.
(PS: 89. He’s freaking 89. But, hopefully, immortal…? Let’s go with that.)