What We Do Not Learn in School
We have all heard the old admonition not to speak ill of the dead, but I have to confess that Andy Rooney, CBS’s ofﬁ cial and much-celebrated curmudgeon, sometimes drove me crazy.
Rooney went to his reward last month at the ripe old age of 92, after serving our nation in World War II and serving CBS for 34 years. He was a literate man, a gifted writer, an off-beat thinker and a family man married to the same beloved woman for 62 years.
I have tremendous admiration and respect for all of that, but he was just so—well, grumpy, especially toward the end. As I read through his obituaries, though, I realized that Andy may not have always been a curmudgeon. His many, spare, and pithy quotations scattered throughout his obits and glowing tributes reveal a man of uncommon wisdom, insight, and, yes, kindness.
Using his signature “I’ve learned…” literary device, one subsequently adopted by legions of other writers, Andy shared his take on life with millions of Americans.
The lessons he learned continue to resonate, at least with me. Here is a sampling of what Andy Rooney said he learned over his long life. Universal truths abound.
• That when you’re in love, it shows;
• That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world;
• That being kind is more important than being right;
• That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with;
• That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes;
• That we should be glad God doesn’t give us everything we ask for;
• That money doesn’t buy class;
• That you should never say no to a gift from a child;
• That under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved;
• That to ignore the facts does not change the facts;
• That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you;
• That love, not time, heals all wounds;
• That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am;
• That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss;
• That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them;
• That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere;
• That I wish I could have told my Mom that I love her one more time before she passed away;
• That one should keep his words both soft and tender because tomorrow he may have to eat them; • That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks;
• That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done;
• That I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him in some other way;
• That when your newly born grandchild holds your little ﬁger in his little ﬁst, that you’re hooked for life; and
• That life is tough, but I’m tougher.
And then there is this one which seems especially poignant even though I do not know when he learned it.
Andy Rooney learned that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
I have decided to overlook Andy’s grumpiness in his later years as CBS’s resident curmudgeon. Over his long career, he learned and passed on to us the wisdom he acquired through life experience, and it is solid and kind. If I manage to learn as much as Andy did and to practice those lessons the rest of my days, I will better for it and probably happier, too.
Andy Rooney has left us a wonderful legacy.
Photo: Andy Rooney