Book Review: “How Did I Get Here So Fast?”

Book Review - How Did I Get Here So Fast

Writer:  Kathy A. Megyeri 

How did I Get Here So Fast? Rhetorical Questions and Available Answers From A Long and Happy Life,” by Chalmers M. Roberts (Time Warner, 1991) 

Chalmers M. Roberts was an award-winning reporter and chief diplomatic correspondent for 38 years at the Washington Post. Chalmers covered the Cold War, the nuclear arms race and DC’s powerbrokers in the ‘50s and ‘60s. After retiring in 1971, he kept writing to “sandwich in some real life between medical appointments because time is our most important asset.” In 2005, he died at age 94.  

Born in 1910 in Pittsburgh, he edited the school newspaper at Amhurst, worked as picture editor of Life magazine and covered the administrations of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. He’s best known for his coverage of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 for the Post, but he wrote numerous books as well, including “The Washington Post: The First 100 Years” (1971) and “How Did I Get Here So Fast?” when he was 80. His observations on aging are perceptive, accurate, and a joy to read.

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For example, Roberts is aware that most people feel the shock of being no longer young between the ages of 40 and 50 as they notice changes in appearance, stamina, emotions, memory and intelligence. Their skin gets drier, they think more about retirement, and they become part of the sandwich generation with both children and parents to care for.  

Roberts reminds us that aging is a process with wide individual variations. When you’re 70, you’ve beaten the odds that existed when you were born. Roberts’ book is a positive read because in retirement, he says, you’ll find out who your true friends are. They don’t forget you when you’re past 75.  

By 80, we’re making concessions to our own state of physical health. He also emphasizes that it’s necessary to keep one’s sense of humor in addition to keeping the heart pumping, the mind active, and the mood cheery.  

People who made it to their 90’s have good genes and a good attitude toward life. Roberts remarks on a comment made by 91-year-old Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to his close friend Justice Louis Brandeis, 74, when an attractive blonde came into view: “Oh, to be 70 again.” And Roberts laughs that Walt Whitman wrote a passage describing the “grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,” when Whitman was only 41 years old. Roberts even admits that his favorite tombstone reads: Been there // And Gone // Had a Good Time.