Life is Bee-utiful

At ease on stage. Mike Petrina, Tony Johnson and Scott Firebaugh, left to right. Photo by Matt Nager

If youth is wasted on the young, wisdom certainly isn’t wasted on the aged.

Watching the participants of the 2011 AARP National Spelling Bee inspired me, and not for reasons you think.

A so-so speller and a journalist (sometimes not a good mix) I was the one always shouting out into the news room, “Does collision have two ‘l’s’ or two ‘s’s?” My mom’s mantra when I asked her how to spell a word, “Look it up.” <sigh> Thanks, mom.

It wasn’t the fact that the 40 participants all knew how to spell hemidemisemiquaver but the fact that they still continue to thirst for knowledge.

The average age of the participants was 62. But combined they have 2,505 years experience.

Bee winner Tony Johnson put it best after he won: “We all just love words.” Indeed.

I got to talk to some of the participants before the bee and asked them how they prepare. Most said, I just love to read and always have. They read novels, non-fiction, some Latin-heavy books. (I didn’t ask for titles) The more hardcore said they study the dictionary daily. But on average these are just a group of folks that know the gray matter matters and they still know how to use it.

Even though $5,000 was on the line they weren’t ubercompetitive about it. Why? They got that out of their system a long time ago. They were here for the fun and the friendships. And you can tell the audience, offed spellers and finalists were laughing, applauding even gasping when someone pulled off agammaglobulinemic – it’s condition when body forms few or no gamma globulins or antibodies. I looked it up! :)

I asked some of them how should I prepare for the 2021 bee, so when I’m 50 I can participate. They asked, with a wink and a smile, why they should give me their secrets since they’re still going to be around to participate.

Now who could argue (or altercate or adduce or brabble or confute) with that?