Allow me, please, to depart from my usual blog topics about writing or weather.
Today is different. I’m 80. I’m old. “Senior middle-ager” doesn’t cut it any longer.
And for the record, that old saw about age being just a state of mind is BS. As much as I try to convince myself I’m merely a large, pokey Energizer Bunny, I’m reminded over and over that I’m really no different from a DieHard that’s died hard. My terminals are corroded, my connections are loose, and my amps have opted out.
But somehow I manage to start each day . . . and actually look forward to it. I don’t exactly shoot out of bed like I had a bottle rocket on my butt (unless I have a leg cramp), but I do manage to get vertical without scaring myself or my Shih Tzu.
Okay, time out. I’m going to toss in a few semi-serious remarks here. And yes, you may run for the exit if you don’t want to sit through this, because I certainly hold no special prominence in this world. I’m an unremarkable old fart—unique, as each of us is, but unremarkable—who has a few observations on a relatively long life. At least I’ve exceeded my actuarial life expectancy.
I should mention that cancer has tried to nail me a couple of times, but my docs caught both assaults very early. So I’m happy to be entering the late innings with a 2-0 lead.
All-in-all, I’ve had a blessed life. But, like most of you, I’ve suffered disappointments, loss, and grief along the way. I’ve lost a younger sister, a younger brother, and my wife of over 50 years. Not to mention a lot of good friends. But life goes on. And here’s one thing I’ve learned: when you’re walking into a gale, you lower your head and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Fortunately, I’ve been favored throughout my existence by two callings I love—meteorology and writing—both of which serve to keep me off the streets and outta the bars as I toddle into geezerhood. The weather stuff grabbed me when I was about 8 or 9 years old and never let go. Writing grew as a passion later in life, and after my wife died, served to keep me from tumbling into an unlit, bottomless abyss.
As I mentioned up front, I don’t have anything profound to offer. But there are a few aphorisms I lug around with me. One my dad laid on me decades ago when I had gone hitless in a youth baseball playoff series and become overwhelmed by frustration—even though my team kept winning. “Keep swinging,” he said, “the hits will come.” So I did. And they did. I got two hits and scored a run in the championship game. (Yeah, we won.)
What he told me, though not particularly profound, has stuck with me far beyond kid baseball. It parallels the walking into a gale maxim. In life, as in baseball, I just keep swinging until the hits come. It’s certainly served me well as a writer.
Another thing my dad told me lo those many years ago has also proved true: Things are seldom as bad as they first seem, nor as good as they first sound. So life has shown me.
Mom offered some good guidance, too. The best one, and something I’ve always tried to employ: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I tend to be a non-confrontational guy. But, like most everyone, I have a breaking point. And I’m usually embarrassed when I do snap, so I try to avoid overt conflict.
Of course, I’ve learned a few things on my own as I’ve stumbled toward codgerville: Everything in moderation, including moderation. And: The only thing impatience kicks into high gear is your blood pressure. Impatience can kill, especially if you’re flying an airplane or driving a car.
Finally, God. I’m a Christian. And a scientist. I believe in God. And I believe in science. I truly believe that God and science work hand-in-hand. (No, I’m not a Christian Scientist, that’s something entirely different.) God has given us a spectacularly complex, one-off world and the tools to study and understand it.
I accept all people as God’s children, His unique creations. I have Black friends, Jewish friends, Muslim friends, agnostic friends, gay friends, and [gasp] even Republican friends. I don’t classify an individual by his or her religion, skin color, or political party. I evaluate each by only one thing: character.
I don’t say any of the above for approbation, criticism, or even to start a dialogue. I present them only as observations from an ordinary man who’s hung around for 80 years.
Okay, back to work, everyone. Ya ain’t gettin’ any younger.