This week I will be celebrating my 70th birthday. As I began to reflect on what those years have meant to me, I realized that breaking it down by decades might be the best way to process it. So for better or worse and in condensed form, my chronological history:
Ages 0-9: I was born in Elmira, New York. There I learned walking (although I occasionally revert to toddling even now), talking (mostly, talking back), toilet training (still one of my greatest achievements), eating by myself (not pretty), playing sports (participant in all, but master of none), riding a bike (if you can call colliding with three different cars on three different occasions bike riding) and schooling (like, it’s not really optional).
Ages 10-19: I became a typical adolescent, the kind you’d rather not be around. Sports still prevailed as the best reason for living. I discovered that teenage girls were the devil’s spawn. They were mean, conniving, and hurtful and I loved being around them. School seemed no longer just a requirement, but something from which good fortunes were derived. Good thing, as college was fast approaching
Ages 20-29: I found that what they say about college (it’s the best years of your life) is absolutely true. I still have dreams about being back on campus. I was one of the few in my fraternity that made it through in four years.
I also found out that Uncle Sam really did want me. And he too, likes school. After 18 grueling weeks at Officer Candidate School (the greatest culture shock of my life, going from fraternity house living to a boot camp environment over a weekend), I was commissioned a Naval Officer, went to some more schools, then spent two years at sea followed by two years of instructor duty.
To my great happiness, I learned that girls are not the devil’s spawn. Some of them are actually angels. In fact, I met one and married her. She’s still an angel. Next came the bliss of having two children. A girl first and then a boy. They are both still one of the biggest joys in my life. (You heard that, right kids? It won’t be long before you’re taking care of me!)
Ages 30-39: I finally had to get serious about a career. I spent the next 25 years in industrial sales. I still enjoyed sports and managed to sneak out of the house on many occasions to play tennis, golf, basketball, touch football and begin a long period of jogging. My wife was none too crazy about this. That career involved a major transfer with my employer from the North to the South. I’m still here y’all.
Ages 40-49: Noticed my passion for sports was morphing from fun into burden. Speed and agility had left, with injury and muscle soreness taking its place. My “jock” days were definitely numbered. My wife was not unhappy about this. During this time, our kids graduated high school and went on to college (with most of our money).
Ages 50-59: Ah, mid-life. The one time in every man’s life when he’s expected to do something stupid. For me it was quitting my job cold turkey. As soon as the kids were out of college, I decided I was tired of the travel and hassle of sales. With the loving support of my wife, I went to the local community college and got certified as a paralegal. I spent the next 13 years with county government and eventually a large law firm. I loved it. My body said “absolutely not” to the sports and now my strongest event is just walking. **
But the best was yet to come, in the form of grandchildren. You often hear that having grand kids is the greatest thing there is. The problem with that statement is it simply doesn’t do it justice. Grandchildren are God’s way of saying “thanks for hanging in there, now here’s your reward.”
Ages 60-69: These years were devoted to winding up our careers (my wife was a schoolteacher), and spoiling granddaughters. After we retired, we moved to be closer to them. From 4 hours away to 5 minutes away. For 4 years we devoted time to them and volunteer projects. When they started to get more seriously involved with activities and friends, we became more of a footnote for them and that was our cue to finally relocate to the house here in Virginia Beach. They still visit often though. We also took advantage of being free to travel. One big trip per year.
Age 70+: One thing for sure about the coming years. I will no longer be able to sneak up on anyone. The creaking of my bones and the low moans it produces preclude that. Having been recently diagnosed with some, shall we say, medical abnormalities, it’s a reminder of the high price of living a long life. But for now and the foreseeable future, I am up and about and taking nourishment, enjoying the walking and continuing with the volunteer activities. With a wonderful family and great blogging friends there is genuinely much reason to celebrate!
** Since I first posted this, I have discovered a sport called pickleball. It is the perfect sport for “chronologically challenged” folks like me. Check it out on Google.