Sunday Gratitude: Dude, How Old ARE You?

Yesterday at the memorial service for Paul Penfield, there were many remembrances shared by family and friends. Many of them meshed–reinforcing what we all knew about this dedicated town volunteer, intelligent researcher/teacher, and humorous participant in life. When one of his sons talked about how similar they were in liking to go for walks, but how different they were in how they did it (Paul liked walking them alphabetically), a rumble of laughter filled the tent outside the First Parish Church. Some memories reminded me of what I hadn’t known–just how brilliant a MIT scientist he was, how many books he had written, and how much he liked ice cream. It was fitting that the memorial had a “half-time” ice cream social. More fitting still was the Second Line parade down Church Street to “Paul’s” rail trail.

One of the stories was told by Reverend Jeff Barz-Snell of the First Parish Church. The anecdote was from 2018, when Paul was 85, and going for a run (perhaps alphabetically?) on the mean streets of Weston. A speeding van cut a corner, and Paul leaped up the embankment to get out of the way, he told the minister. And then the van stopped, backed up and the young person yelled out the window to Paul –“Dude….how old ARE you?” to which Paul replied “85”. And, as Rev. Barz-Snell noted, Paul felt the whole incident was kind of “awesome”–some part of his long adventure on Earth.

My gratitude today is to those who never let age stop them, who inspire the rest of us to think “well, he’s 85 and still running” or “he’s 92, and still sailing” (hi, Tom Selldorff!) and they’re volunteering, and learning and doing, and it’s all kind of “awesome.” Our little town is filled with these folks–look around to see who is on the Weston Forest & Trail Association board and leading walks (hello, Nancy Bates), the Historical Commission leading preservation of our past until we all understand the importance of it, and many other volunteer roles in our town. With no insult intended, I have to say our old guard could kick any other place’s old guard and then some. If you don’t know them, you’re missing out. If you aren’t one yourself, you know that you’ve arrived when you too are asked…dude…how old ARE you?

Stopping traffic and dancing down the street for Paul Penfield, Old Guard extraordinaire

Oh, when the saints go marching in
Oh, when the saints go marching in
Oh Lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in.

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