, Salem, MA


June 30, 2014

Column: Here’s to late bloomers; may they publish, not perish

America: We’re getting long in the tooth. According to a recent census report, the number of us 65 and older will double by the middle of the century.

But ripeness, Shakespeare wrote, is all. And, so, in my golden days of AARP, I’m celebrating folks who are among the last to cross the finish line. It’s their final flourish that nourishes me. I identify. Here’s why. My publisher has scheduled the release of my very first book for November — two months before my 70th birthday.

I raise my skinny arm in triumph.

Grandma Moses didn’t produce her first painting until she was 76. Col. Sanders was a crispy 65 when he launched Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Anticipating my 70s, I muse on elderly icons. I find them — how to say? — relatable. Not so much the size of their accomplishments; more about their late-inning persistence. “I’m persistent as the pink locust,” wrote the poet William Carlos Williams. “Once admitted to the garden, you will not easily get rid of it.” Williams — obstetrician, gardener — didn’t really burst into bloom until his 60s, the age that Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing “Little House on the Prairie.”

Not that these late bloomers were dormant until they awakened floridly. Grandma Moses was embroidering on her upstate New York farm. The Colonel was acquainted with deep-frying years before his mogulhood. But neither the bronzed chicken nor the white-bearded face were quite ready to take wing, so to speak.

It’s no secret that America makes a fetish of youth — real, virtual and Botoxed. In my college days, the youth culture warned not to trust anyone over 30. Neil Young sang:

My, my — hey, hey

Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay

Better to burn out

Than fade away.

America’s newest heroes are the STEM kids — those tech wizards in their ripped jeans and tees. In 2014, it’s all about Twitter! Wikipedia! Vines! Snapchat! Uber!

Rock on, dudes! As for me, I’m looking forward to November when my book blooms. Walt Whitman saw a book as a ball of light in the hand. It’s also a late-blooming flower with whose petals are pages.


Robert Brown is a professor of communications at Salem State University. His book, “The Public Relations of Everything,” is due out Nov. 14.

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