An interesting thing happened on my well-traveled road to seniority. My collective collateral, long assumed to be material things and assets, morphed into something far more valuable and priceless. Health became paramount and without it, everything else pales in comparison.
At my age, all the money in the world doesn’t mean a damn thing if you don’t have your health. As wealthy as some folks are, few of them if any, can buy their way back to health once it begins slipping away.
I’m feeling rather blessed in my accumulating age and encroaching mortality. Not only because of a satisfying lifestyle but also an increased awareness of those little ‘blink of an eye’ revelations and occurrences that make a life a life. I’m talking about those seemingly insignificant events so easily missed if one isn’t paying attention.
I’ve always been cognizant of the deep peacefulness and quiet comfort I’ve found resting on my tabernacle or being lost in the middle of a desert hike or surrounded in a chapel of deep woods. More recently, I’ve become even more aware of those fleeting events that somehow come together into what we simply recognize as our everyday life.
It’s living that extra moment when all is well with the world and realizing it’s good to be alive.
In retrospect, I’ve been very lucky. I thought about these phenomena recently after attending yet another funeral. It seems more and more of my friends and/or acquaintances have experienced recent health issues at this stage in their lives. That and my own aches and pains crawling out of bed each morning brought that issue to mind.
‘Late in life’ issues often prompt a reflective glimpse back in time. The famous Irish poet Oscar Wilde once said, “The final mystery is oneself.” So how does one unravel the mystery of self? It probably can’t happen without self-awareness and self-awareness won’t happen without reflection.
I’m at that point in life where things are starting to happen beyond my control. This old body has been pumping and expanding for seventy-seven years. Fortunately its wear and tear has been relatively minimum. For others an excess of ‘living the good life’ is finally starting to show its consequences. For others, it’s the luck of the draw or the flip side of that event. I mentioned that idea in another blog entitled ‘The Final Tabulation.’
Reflecting back on circumstances or events in one’s life can bring about new insights into your present circumstances. I think reflection is looking inward so one can look back with a broader, more accurate perspective of your current situation in life. Health more than most other events can bring that to the forefront.
Hiking the Garstin Trail each Saturday morning has brought me renewed appreciation for the mountain goats that so often pass me on their trek to the summit. These are weathered old folks who have passed up their country club lifestyle for the more challenging heights of our surround-ing mountains. Their stamina is something to be admired.
Assessing what is important at this stage of one’s life really comes down to the basics. Health, family, friendships and life experiences. All the rest is condemned to be outdated, worn out or soon to be replaced by this season’s new trend. It’s really the basics that count.
Even back in the day I couldn’t understand the hype surrounding ‘turning twenty-one.’ It was simply a number that had little meaning to me. I was already doing what I was doing, legal or not. In fact the only thing I did to recognize that momentous occasion was to let a friend take me to a bar (his favorite) and drink’ legally’ for the first time.
Two weeks later, I was inducted into the United States Army and from then on age mattered even less.
Age thirty came and we were living in Maryland and loving it. Sharon had a great job with Baltimore County Schools and I was managing the Program Distribution Department at the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting. I was well into writing my first novel and tiptoeing in Community Theater.
The mythical forty year mid-life crisis slipped by unnoticed because I was simply too busy with other things. The kids were growing up by the minute. Sharden Productions, Inc. was expanding along with several investment projects plus a full time job in public television. I had little time for anything else. Fifty years of age came and went and wasn’t even noticed. Sixty meant I was nearing the end of my working career with no clear substitute on the horizon.
My seventy birthday marked a wonderful celebration when both adult children and their respective families made a surprise visit to us in the desert. It reminded me how lucky I truly was.
Now at the ripe young age of seventy-seven I am well into my new writing career. Even though marketing is still my Achilles’ Heel, I have managed to write eleven novels, thirteen plays, four screenplays and too many treatments to count. I’ve made it this far with no regrets and a deep appreciation for a life well-lived. I’ve been incredibly lucky in my relationship with Sharon and my immediate family, my health and friends; past and present. This new writing phase is just icing on the cake - seventy-seven years in the making.
Reflecting back on the details of one’s life often reveals a much larger mirror picture. Old black and white photographs, cryptic notes, official documents, and period relics hold captive a bank vault of stored memories.
I have finally come to appreciate all that my mother did for me, intentionally or otherwise. I am now able to recognize the tremendous sacrifices she made for my sister and me. Sadly, I was never able to see that clearly when I was growing up or in her later years. My biggest regret is that I was never close to her. But then again it’s hard to be close to someone who was never able to show even a slightest hint of love or affection toward her children.
Military service, like living in Europe, afforded me life lessons no textbook could ever replicate. I’ve encountered many people who have taught me about life in so many different ways. Some straight to the heart, other lingering beneath the surface, still others in looks and glances and gestures made. Some I understood, others were confusing, but all were learning experiences.
Women in particular made the strongest impact on my life. I’ve often wondered if the dysfunction I experienced at home caused me confusion and distraction on the dating scene. I’m sure it was a combination of my immaturity, insecurity and over-active hormones that fractured many a friendship. But wonderful teachers they all were. Life lessons each and every one of them and most not realized until I was much further down the road. Moreover, a heartfelt salute to the greatest teacher of them all - with whom I’ve lived a full life for more than forty-eight years.
It’s been one heck of a ride thus far. Yet there are still so many plays, novels, screenplays, songs, comic strips and who knows what else left to create.