Adulting for the senior set

light bulbs

Now that I’m rushing headlong toward my eighth decade, the reality of aging has forced me to think about what it means to be a grown-up — showing the maturity I’ve acquired over the years: I want to be more apt to cooperate than separate; be supportive, not punitive; show courage, rather than seek comfort; do the right thing, instead of the easy one; and be less self-centered and more self-aware.

These seem like worthy goals for a senior citizen, at least for those of us who didn’t really think much about the complexities and necessities of becoming an adult in earlier years.

Fortunately, I have some examples of how that’s done, from people much younger than me.

Government: Gov. Tim Walz, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Speaker Melissa Hortman gave me a lesson in cooperation when they negotiated a budget compromise during the last legislative session. Walz and Hortman, DFLers, got together with Gazelka, a Republican, for several days behind closed doors and resolved their policy differences.

They not only came away with an agreement, but they also seemed to have a genuine respect for each other — and they said so. In these days of political confrontation and combat, that struck me as a victory for grown-ups everywhere.

Pro sports: Whatever happens to the Minnesota Twins in the final month, the season has to be judged a success. One of the primary reasons is the young manager, Rocco Baldelli. He’s anything but a crusty curmudgeon. He’s quick to publicly support his players and to resist a worst-case scenario. As Miguel Sano struggled with strikeouts, Baldelli came to his defense.

“Has he had some swing-and-miss issues over the last week or so? Maybe,” Baldelli said. “He’s also the guy who gets on base, who impacts the ball.”

I believe the young players respond to that kind of support.

Education: I witnessed the courage that University of St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan showed following a racial incident on her campus. She cancelled classes and held a campus-wide student discussion on the need for diversity and decency.

She was available to reporters and critics. Meanwhile, her fellow MIAC presidents, after they decided to kick St. Thomas out of the athletic conference, sought comfort in anonymity. Not one of them had a public comment. They instead hid behind an innocuous news release.

Police: St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell — a model for doing the right thing rather than the easy one — held a press conference a few months ago that was anything but innocuous. He announced he had fired five police officers for standing around while a former St.  Paul cop beat a victim with a baton and pepper-sprayed him. The chief called it a breach of duty and the public’s trust. It takes guts to fire cops and the St. Paul Police Federation has already said it
will challenge the chief’s action.

Celebrity: Joe Mauer’s words when the Twins retired his number made for a classic example of a celebrity who often thinks more about others than himself. He told the June crowd that his family kept him grounded, that his wife held down the fort while he lived his dream.

“I hope when everyone here tonight sees that No. 7 hanging in the rafters — you all know that you played a role in getting it up there,” Mauer said. “I know when I see it, I’ll think of all of you and be forever grateful.”

That’s a memorable lesson in humility for me, who always liked the attention. Hell, no one even suggested retiring my typewriter.

Dave Nimmer had a long career as a reporter, editor and professor. Now retired, he has no business card, but plenty to do. Send comments or questions to [email protected].