Sen. Orrin Hatch keeps calling my house. I don’t know why. He knows I’m not a Republican. Also, I keep hanging up on him.
I like Hatch on a personal level, but our political differences are significant. I believe that all legislative decisions should be decided by pay-per-view congressional hammer fights. He doesn’t. But we still get along.
A couple of years ago, my mom was in St. Mark’s Hospital for surgery. The entire family showed up to get the news. We milled around in the waiting room. It was late enough that it was just us Kirbys.
Then the elevator dinged, the doors opened, and out walked Hatch. No bodyguards, entourage or pesky media types. Just him there to visit his wife, who was also in the hospital.
We spotted each other and went over to shake hands.
Him • “Robert, how’s your mom doing?”
Me • “We’re waiting to hear. How’s Elaine?”
My father had followed me over. I introduced him to the senator. Apparently it didn’t take, because the Old Man squinted suspiciously at Hatch and wanted to know why he looked so familiar.
Hatch • “I’m Senator Orrin Hatch.”
My father • “No, that’s not it.”
The Old Man is two years older than Hatch, but he’s been long retired. For good reason. He can’t drive anymore, struggles with the names of his relatives, and follows Mom around until she’s outside of her mind.
But he’s still mobile. If they ever let the Old Man out of the senior living center where we currently have him stashed, I’d end up driving to Denver or Phoenix to fetch him back.
I told you that to tell you this: My father decided for himself when it was time to retire. He’s been retired for at least 25 years, and hasn’t done anything more mentally or physically taxing than a few church missions since then.
Some people want Hatch, 83, to retire, insisting he’s too old to do his job in the U.S. Senate. He might be, but he keeps getting re-elected, which is how this country works.
Not agreeing with Hatch’s politics is not sufficient reason, in and of itself, to call for his age-related retirement. Apparently, he’s still sharp enough to get around and know where he’s going.
I’d be rather annoyed if people tried to get me to retire simply because they thought I was too old. That decision is up to my wife, and the last thing she wants is me hanging around with not enough to do. Come to think of it, that should probably concern you as well.
Hatch and I still have our jobs because nobody has fired us yet. People holler that we should be forced out to pasture, but it hasn’t happened.
It will eventually. Nobody lives forever. Hatch might die in office. He might get too sick to continue. But as long as he is aware of what’s going on — whether we agree with him or not — he’s entitled to avoid retirement.
I don’t have to worry about that. I have one of the few jobs in this country in which mental stability is more of a liability. Hell, I’ll never have to retire.