The news today from England is that Queen Elizabeth has passed Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning monarch. I love nearly all things British, especially royal events such as a wedding, the State Opening of Parliament, etc. The English have a delightful way of maintaining traditions.
Take sports, for example. I like the fact that Wimbledon tennis has a royal box in the stands, and also that the The Duke of Kent is given the title of president for that club. At one time it was customary for players to curtsy or bow as they entered or exited Centre Court, but that has since been curtailed to only if the Queen or the Prince of Wales are in attendance.
During last evening’s U.S. Open match between the Williams sisters, I noticed that Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump were each accorded special seating privileges. It wasn’t quite a royal box, but it was still exclusively VIP accommodations. Somehow it just didn’t seem the same as at Wimbledon, though. Our royalty pales compared to the real deal. Still though, I bet The Donald might approve of being given the honor of a curtsy or bow. I suspect that’s probably protocol at Trump Tower anyway.
I am also in awe of the grandeur traditions in the Catholic church. To me all of its councils, conclaves, and ceremonies are as noble as any of those bashes thrown by Buckingham Palace. The nice thing about Catholicism is that it has all these “satellite branches” throughout the world. They sort of replicate what also takes place in Rome, except perhaps on a slightly less grand scale. Still, some of the archdioceses I’ve noticed spare no expense with the partying. Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, I’ve got my eye on you. Please call, I’m not going to be bashful. I want in on some of that action at your next big affair. London and Rome are too far for me, but your digs are only a few hours drive from us. We’ll bring a bottle of wine.
But I really don’t mean to rain on the Queen Elizabeth’s glorious parade today. Sixty three years of public service! That’s even longer than Larry King’s CNN talk show. I do, however, wonder if it’s really been such a good idea for her to have stayed on the throne for so long. Never mind that your oldest son’s whole life has been seemingly one of only pulling cords or cutting ribbons to unveil some new statue or door. You’d think she would have genuinely wanted by now to finally have some time to herself. Those weekly chats with the Prime Minister must get painfully dull.
For my money, Pope Benedict is the poster boy for absolutely knowing when to pack it in. As a result, I think he’s a great role model for Her Majesty. The guy simply woke up one day and declared, “Genug!” His bank was full of corrupt employees, he had lawsuits galore from the actions of some evil priests and even a few cardinals, and he learned that he couldn’t even trust his butler. Can you blame the guy for wanting to bail?
Pope Benedict’s genius was in how he decided to retire. Pope’s normally don’t retire — it’s considered a lifetime gig until, well, you die. Benedict simply decided that he would keep the pope moniker but add “Emeritus” to it to avoid confusion. Pure brilliance! He still gets to live at the Vatican, has all of his meals and health care taken care of, and everyone still treats him as a pope because, well, he sort of still is. The guy might be accused of being a lousy manager, but he sure knew how to design his own retirement plan. He has my ever-lasting admiration.
If you ignore the Kardashians and Duggars, we really have no royalty in the U.S. We do, however, have plenty of public officials who tend to overstay their time in office. Speaking of lifetime gigs, Supreme Court justices are a prime example. They sometimes stay on the bench way past the point they should. They instead might want to follow the better examples of Justices Stevens and O’Connor, each of whom retired early enough to enjoy other pursuits beyond that of writing opinions.
Justice Scalia, by the way, has the distinction of overstaying his time from the moment he was actually confirmed by the Senate. But that’s probably something we can explore further in a separate blog post all its own.
Family members sometimes overstay too. I have made it my manifest destiny to never visit with relatives more than 72 hours if I can possibly help it. The old saw about fish and company is very relevant in my opinion, and there is a very fine line between love and over-familiarly. I lived within the bosom of my family for the first 18 years of my life, but after that I always lived away from them — far away in fact. That we are comparative strangers when it comes to the dynamics of personal likes, dislikes, etc., is probably an understatement. It’s fair to say that I have more in common with former co-workers than I do with actual family members. This came through to me loud and clear late last year when a sister of mine visited for an entire week.
That I love my sister goes without saying. We talk on the phone regularly, exchange e-mails at least several times a month, and share the bond of each of us growing up in the same home under parental figures who, for better or worse, molded us to become the people we are. Yet, my sister and I remain vastly different people with completely different tastes and habits. When she told me she would be staying a week, I had initial concerns because quite frankly I was sure that eventually old issues would again resurface. Sure enough, by day four our good natures each began to fray around the edges. We made it to the finish line of the visit, but it took every amount of diplomacy from each of us to keep a proper level of equanimity.
When she recently announced a desire to come back this coming December, it was mentioned with the noblest of aims and intentions that she is now including visits to see additional friends who also live in Florida. In other words, she’ll only be staying with us a part of the time. A lesson learned, of course, but I also know that a shorter amount of time between us will actually raise the level of enjoyment between us at least ten-fold. I now do look forward to her return visit later this year very much.
My sincere hats off to Queen Elizabeth for her long reign. That she remains active, certainly appears to have retained all of her faculties, and continues to keep her own counsel is quite admirable. Although I had long hoped that she would pass the baton on to Charles by now, the beauty of being a monarch is that you get to make your own decisions. Perhaps she and Pope Benedict have more in common than I thought.
It’s good to be queen. For the rest of us, though, you gotta know when to fold ’em.