Juan Carlos I of Spain in 2011
Juan Carlos I of Spain in 2011
Ricardo Roa

Geraldine Chaplin once recalled her famous father's resilient humor, which persisted even onto his death bed.

At 88, Charlie Chaplin's health was failing, and as doctors and relatives observed him, his eyes closed and barely breathing, Geraldine's mother audibly declared that the "final moment" had come.

"I'm just playing dead," Chaplin muttered back.

He remained to the end the energetic, lively man he had always been. He married four times and had 11 children. Yet one of them, the actress Geraldine Chaplin, has said on a current visit to Buenos Aires that at the age of 69 she feels "like 97." She insists she has felt old since turning 50.

Geraldine is a talented actress. She was and remains a beautiful woman, as as our own recent picture of her shows. But does what she says reflect how she is, or how she wants us to see her?

Old age can take several forms. An old man can feel young, and a young man old. Geraldine may have inherited her father's lively genes, but the desire to live happily is something we gradually construct, in spite of passing time or bumps along the way.

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Geraldine Chaplin in 2012 — Photo: Odessa International Film Festival

Geraldine complains that the human life is "poorly made" when the body ages and youthful desires remain. There is, alas, no rewind button.

Blame the son-in-law

King Juan Carlos's abdication announcement on Monday is also undoubtedly linked to time and age, but perhaps more so to something very different: an unfortunate thing called corruption.

The king is 76 years old now. History will remember him as the monarch that helped steer Spain toward democracy after the death of General Francisco Franco. He helped save it in 1981, intervening against an attempted coup. Franco had anointed him successor, but he chose to confront the past and look to the future. He had a key role in modernizing Spanish politics and democracy.

But all this seemed to have faded in recent years — or at least become partly eclipsed by the failings around him. No, we are not referring to his love affairs, but to the corruption, above all a scandal involving his daughter and son-in-law, which stained the monarch's image and made him the object of increasing suspicion about his reign.

A few years ago, the monarchy was the country's most esteemed institution among Spaniards. Now it ranks sixth. Complicated interpretations aside, we can say that the King is passing on power to his son Prince Felipe not because he feels too old to do what he is doing. He just knows that it is time to go.

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