Moe Bergman, 96
A light-hearted look at aging
The aging process is certainly a challenge to adjust to but a privilege to experience. It takes a sense of humor and a grateful acceptance of the inevitable changes that one faces in order to make the most of it.
This is the lesson I learnt from Moe Bergmann, a unique and intriguing friend who is 96 years old, and who has graciously shared with me some of his perceptions, gained from his sharp intellect and the wisdom of his advanced age. His wife, Hannah, whose memory is often called upon by her husband when searching for an elusive shared memory or a stubborn word that refuses to surface at that moment, joined in the discussion.
Moe and Hannah have been married for 73 years and they both agree that a major contributory factor to their longevity is the fortunate circumstance of their still having each other to care for.
Moe was one of the original eminent pioneers in the study of audiology in the States. He was persuaded to do the same for Israel, head hunted by Chaim Sheba to create the audiology unit of Tel Hashomer Hospital. Moe and Hannah came to live in Israel in 1975. They are residents of Beth Protea in Herzliya.
Moe used to tell many jokes. In his youth, these were dependant on propriety. He feels that if a joke about old age is appropriate, it’s as well to share it and enjoy a good laugh at one’s own expense, since laughter tends to lighten the challenge of deteriorating abilities. It would be a lot harder to come to terms with the aches and pains of the slowing-down process of life at this stage without a sense of humor to help us over the hurdles. This perception is shared by one’s peers, who are experiencing the same symptoms.
There are also cultural idiosyncrasies to consider. Perceptions of humor differ and we may often find ourselves sitting at the theater or cinema, surprised at the mirth generated in the audience by an incident on the stage or screen that does not in any way amuse us.
There is also the matter of perception. A lovely story concerns the little boy at nursery school who, in all innocence, says to his beloved teacher, “I am going to marry you, when you grow down!”
Often, when aging there is the mistaken idea that we haven’t changed, but the world has. This may create quite a bitter humor. For example: "The newspaper print is smaller than it used to be" or “People whisper these days, they don’t speak out”.
It is this kind of comment that may well promote laughter as we recognize our own failings! Books of jokes are written about the aging process and those who laugh loudest at these are the aged themselves. Consider this statement of Moe: “He has a remarkable insight into the obvious!”
There is of course a more serious side to aging. Where does the constant motivation to carry on come from? It is a provocative question to ponder. Moe has recently become aware of the decline in his ability to see and to hear. It is very frustrating. He is aware of not getting as much input as he used to. The purpose of hearing is to share information. A lot of that information manifests itself in humor and when the input is less, the opportunity to pick up on something in order to reinterpret it in a humorous vein is also diminished. Communication becomes very limited – and that’s not funny.
Moe, an eminent lecturer, was always a wonderful teacher and so he remains. I am privileged to be an avid student of his wisdom which directs him not to spoon-feed but to stimulate thought and encourage research. He quotes a friend who once said, “All that is learnt is not taught.” My friend has shared with me the reality of aging and the possibility of being able to laugh at the idiosyncrasies of the condition. He is a clear example of the wisdom of the old and the reality of life always being worth living and always worth learning from.
And now let’s share a few typical jokes that fit that statement.
Two old men are walking along when suddenly a group of high-school girls runs past them. The one old man turns to his friend and says, “Do you remember when we used to run after those young girlies?” “Yup,” is the reply. “I remember when. I don’t remember why!”
A man is walking in the street and he sees a familiar figure approaching. He walks up to him and says, “Sir, excuse me. I know you. You’re … uh … hum hum ... I am trying to remember your name, sir. What is it?” The second man looks up at him blankly and eventually replies, “Uh, how soon do you have to know it?”