Approaching 70. It’s Not That Bad!
“Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.” - J.K Rowling
My grandmother was the first to pass away. It was in 1977. My grandfather was next, passing in 1988. Dad died in 1999. Mom, she passed away in 2014. All gone. All the people I loved, my relatives, they are gone now. However, the most important one, my wife Sandra, is still beside me. She is the one I lean on more each day. She has always been alongside me, even though I did not always deserve that loyalty and love.
In June, I will turn 70. The reality of life and death becomes clearer with each passing day. The aches. The muscle strains. It takes me so much longer to rise each morning. Thankfully though, I have been blessed to this point, with the health that allows me to physically do, within reason and practicality, what I did 30 years ago. Not just as often or as long. I never take that for granted
Sometimes I look in the mirror and ask myself, “What the hell happened! Where the hell did the years go?” Something I often say to people during one of my book talks, “Remember when you were a freshman in high school? You never thought you would live long enough to be a senior. The longest four years of your life. Now, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years…blink!”
I have changed so much, and not just physically. I used to laugh (inside) when my grandparents talked about how much they enjoyed a long drive on a country road in the rain. Pour a thermos of coffee and throw some cold cuts, bread, mayonnaise, a tomato, and an onion in the picnic basket. Then, just drive a country road. A drive to nowhere and back. They shared so much joy.
Dad. He was a Sunday religious man. We dressed in our coats and ties, mom in her finest dress and hat, and joined our friends and neighbors in church. After church, we stopped for a ice cream sundae and some fresh bread and went home. Dad and I had sports to watch and we made sure there was time for The Ed Sullivan Show. Dad was a Sunday religious man, or so I thought.When he came to visit, now in his 70’s, at first, I thought it odd when I would see him late at night sitting on the side of his bed…reading his bible. Now, I understand.
Mom. She was different. You never really knew what she was thinking. To those outside of the family, she appeared talkative and assured. To me, she was quiet, strong-willed, and kept her feelings deep inside. My-oh- my, how she fought the passing years. During her last two years, she revealed more about herself than the previous 50 years combined. My parents were suddenly human beings. Not simply mom & dad.
Yes, I will turn 70 this summer. And, thankfully, I have become my grandparents, dad, and even mom, in some ways. I understand, finally, the enormous joy in watching a tree frog on our kitchen window. Motionless, until it is time. Then, in a split second, that lightning fast tongue retrieves dinner.
Each morning, I feed our Blue Jays their peanuts. Then, in an embarrassing attempt, I try to call them to the breakfast table. I hurriedly run into the house so we can watch them swoop down and compete for the biggest and best. They hop. They bob. They fuss. Then, fly away with breakfast. Only to return within minutes for more.
A ride in the country to see the spring blooms. I always become quiet inside when I see an old abandoned farm house with daffodils blooming everywhere. A symbol of the love that was once. A symbol of that love remains, as long as the daffodils bloom.
As I drive through the country and gaze upon a road bank or a wispy unkept field with daffodils blooming, I ask them, “What secrets do you hold? What happened to the loving hands which so carefully planted you years ago? Where did the laughter go? What secrets lie beneath those wispy fields?"
As I walk through the gardens Sandra has so painstakingly planned and planted, I hear her talking with her flowers even when she is not with me, “Girls, it’s too early to wake up. Go back to sleep for a couple weeks. It’s too cold.” But soon, they will reward her hard work and supporting words with beautiful blooms. Blooms that will grace every room in our home. Even the ants that come along for the ride are welcomed…for a short period of time.
Approaching 70. It’s not that bad. Because everything has slowed down. As I often playfully say, “I can still ‘get down’ like I did when I was 25. Getting up, that takes some time and ‘carefulness." Life has forced me to slow down. And now, I have learned to see, not just look. I now fully understand what Emerson meant when he said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
My grandparents probably never read Emerson, but Emerson surely knew them. They had many a long ride in the country together, the three of them.
For the young of years: If you take the time to see, and not just look, you will understand the joy of watching a honey bee go from flower to flower, so heavy with pollen she can barely fly.
Today, I am thankful for what I can do. Thankful for what I now see. And, I look forward to the simple pleasures tomorrow will bring. Most of all, I am thankful for a wife who loves me despite me being me for most of my life. Sight came to my eyes much too late.
Approaching 70, really, it’s not that bad.
Until next time.
“Your humor is absolutely spot-on and intelligent, peppered with a bit of sarcasm and childlike wonder. Your stories have that element of memory, poignant and comic at times, but always heartfelt and affecting. Your language is simple and friendly, weaved seamlessly in your narrative that is consistently lighthearted and warm in tone. Your experience as a teacher shows in your elaborate, playful descriptions and your sharp, unpretentious irony. I am also impressed with the way your structured the book—as a collection of short stories in no chronological order as opposed to one big chunk of episodic chapters that are more or less akin to a journal. It serves the tone and heart of your words perfectly.”
“Mike: Thank you for the copy of your book “Life through these Eyes.”
I am honored that you gave me one of the first copies. I have had the opportunity to read several chapters today and must say that I am impressed. You are a very talented writer. Congratulations my friend! Best, Andy”