The Lesson I Learned from Victor Borge

Posted by on Feb 14, 2015 in Brian's Blog, Comedy, Music, Retirement | 0 comments

When I first met Victor Borge, I was 31 and he was 66. He seemed old to me at the time. Most people retired at 65. Why would a man of pensionable age who had made plenty of money from his comedy and piano playing still want to be out there travelling the world, doing the same old shtick, night after night, for months and years on end?

Victor Borge

Victor Borge

As you can tell from my latest Facts & Opinions column, I didn’t put the question to him in quite those dismissive terms, but the subtext was clear. At age 31, I clearly thought that when people turned 65, they should put on the carpet slippers, repair to the easy chair, and spend the rest of their lives reading newspapers and telling stories to their grandchildren. That’s what my grandfathers had done, that’s what my civil-servant father expected to do (he was 58 then), and that’s what I thought I probably would do when I reached that age.

My father stopped working at 65. But he wasn’t quite ready for the slippers and the easy chair yet. He spent the rest of his life taking courses to make up for the high school education he had been unable to complete before joining the civil service as a junior clerk. He also taught bridge classes at a local community centre and volunteered as the handicapping secretary at his golf club.

Victor Borge, of course, never stopped working. In his 90s, he was defying his doctors by continuing to include the trademark pratfalls in his stage act despite their advice that he confine his physical activity to playing the piano.

And I, surprise, surprise, at age 71 am still doing what I was doing in my 20s and 30s, scribbling away with no end in sight. There’s always another story to tell, a writer friend told me once. “When the mind goes, you can just turn your talents to writing experimental poetry.”

That’s the lesson I learned from Victor Borge. If you love what you’re doing, don’t stop. Keep right on to the end of the road; keep right on to the end.

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