i’m jumping the gun on this one just to get it done as it looks like tomorrow is going to be a full day. It’s actually about 14 1/2 hours early. My bride is treating me well for this one. Today, to celebrate this event and because one of our cleaning ladies has contracted the current plague, i mopped our floors, about three-quarters of our home.
Maureen managed to get a tee time for the two of us on one of my favorite courses. Undoubtedly, i will be treated to a wonderful dinner tomorrow night. i will be most appreciative.
But passing along some of Mother’s recipes to my niece, Danielle Boggs, in the last couple of days, i began to think about birthday dinners. There have been many memorable ones. But tomorrow night, i wish Maureen, Blythe, Sarah, Jason, and Sam were with Mother and Daddy sitting at the oak table in the breakfast niche on Castle Heights Avenue, eating Mother’s meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fried corn, a fresh tomato, and biscuits with ice tea.
Now that would make my day.
With one more 7, I could win the jackpot.
Ain’t gonna happen.
With the turn of the clock, I have made it to older than every male relative of mine, besides my father.
Grandfathers, uncles, all passed away at 76 or earlier.
i have twenty years to become as old as my mother when she passed just shy of her 97th. i would have to live another two years after that to reach the age of my father when he passed just shy of 99.
“Good genes,” they say.
“Yeh, but they didn’t live as wild a life as i did,” i respond.
Ain’t gonna happen.
Oh sure, I hope I make it that long, if for nothing else to see how my grandson Sam turns out in his thirties.
Ain’t gonna happen.
There is a freedom that has grown upon me as I grow older. It’s damn close to reaching its apex.
I know there will be a point where I don’t think so well anymore. I can already perceive this decline in rationality, good thinking, is upon me.
i have a reel-to-reel tape of The Dillard’s album, “Live, Almost.” Rob Dewitt let me tape his album when we were shipmates on our first ship, the USS Hawkins (DD 788) — Bob returned to his home in Maine, practicing dentistry (thanks, Rob). i just found the album on the web and ordered the MP3 version because i had been looking for years with the wrong title. The Dilliards, in case you don’t know was the fictional band “The Darlings” on the Andy Griffith Show. In one song on the album, the Dilliards came up with the lyrics, “I wish I were an old man. I’ll tell you the reason why: he dribbles his tobacco and never zips his fly.”
i mean really. Like Saturday i went to get bagels and coffee to my go-to Donny’s Cafe. When i got back, Maureen told me my fly was open. Now i haven’t chewed tobacco since college when i graduated from leaf to wad to twist and could chew while drinking water…or beer: for some reason, a feat i was proud of over a half-century ago. Haven’t chewed since. So i don’t dribble my tobacco, but not zipping my fly certainly unequivocally qualifies me as an old man.
So perhaps it’s time for me to tell you how I really feel about a lot of stuff.
Nah, you would choose to find fault with it because I don’t agree with just about everything presented in a package. Just ain’t worth it. I value my friendships, my relationships.
You might learn some things about me after I’m gone. I truly am a pocket of resistance, a “contrarian” as daughter Blythe accurately titled me. I have found there really isn’t a “right” answer to solve all of our problems. Oh, there are lots of answers to those problems, but there is no one way to solve everyone’s problems. They might solve the problems of the ones who propose that to be the Right answer, but guaranteed that solution is going to make it worse for someone else.
Perhaps it’s because of the vagabond kind of life I lived in the time I’ve lived. Perhaps it is because the Navy life gave me access to a wide, wonderful world and the people in it, and spending a significant amount of my 22 years upon the bounding main gave me the time to contemplate what i’ve seen in those places and in those people.
Doesn’t really matter what caused it. It seems i’ve reached a point where my viewpoint is different from everyone else’s. At this 77 juncture, i wonder if we all, if we all quit acting like lemmings for a moment, would we feel the way i do about being different?
What i do know is i’m not gonna change the world, especially not gonna change anyone’s opinions. Tried it. Doesn’t work, especially with those folks around my age. Most are locked into their opinions and aren’t going to change regardless what facts reveal their opinion is wrong…er, different from mine.
i have decisions to make. Those decisions are ones that have been before me all my life, just different. i have to decide, since i’m not gonna try to change the world or people’s opinions, what am i going to do the rest of my life?
i can just say the hell with doing anything but what i want to do and enjoy life. i like piddling around my house, doing projects that are pretty much worthless for anyone other than me. i love to play golf with friends even when my golf game is close to pathetically inconsistent. i have a sizable bookshelf a credenza chocked full of books, many of which i’ve read. i would like to read the ones i haven’t read and reread the ones i have.
Now, i have a repeating schedule of up-in-the-morning early to watch first light roll into dawn. i get pleasure out of prepping the kitchen and the breakfast table for Maureen to make another one of those incredible breakfasts, often turning the run of the mill eggs into something any chef would envy. i find it calming to go through the steps for grinding my Columbian coffee beans (thanks, Donny), dropping them into the French press (high end, double micro-filter) Maureen gave me a year or so ago, taking the brush on the end of the measuring cup and brushing the container clean, pouring the steaming hot water into the press and waiting the allowed time for it to steep while i scan the headlines of the newspaper i’ve retrieved from our driveway to see if there is something worth reading. Most often, there isn’t any news worth reading or from the headline, i can tell it has already violated the old rules of acceptable journalism. So as i pour the coffee out of the press into my USS Yosemite coffee mug, i place all of that stuff by Maureen’s breakfast table setting and the sports page and comics by mine. i prep her coffee — Maureen has recognized all of the ingredients she adds to her coffee pretty much wipes out the necessity of having great coffee so she uses off the shelf (but good) coffee because it’s cheaper — and i brew hers in a coffee maker.
And while she cooks, i go through my emails and Facebook page on the laptop and check the weather.
The whole routine takes a couple of hours but it’s daily and that’s okay. It’s us. Of course, golf can suspend it for a day.
The other option is to pretend like i’m still working. That would be by writing. Although i have accepted not being able to change people’s minds, i can express thoughts about what we might consider, delve into my past experiences with the hope of giving someone, especially those much younger than me, some different perspective when making up their minds. It seems like something worthwhile to do: to provide counsel, not direction.
As i face this day of 77, i reflect on those old folks from my past, especially the old men. Many of them died too young because the medical world wasn’t as advanced back then. They were good men. Then, i think of the ones who faced this 77 like i am facing today. And i heed the words of two of those most dear to me.
Ray Boggs, my father-in-law, didn’t reach 77. He left me when he was about a half-year away from this portal. As he first discovered he had cancer, he told me, “I want to live as long as I can think clearly”.
i now have that same wish. i hope and pray i will retain my wits, if not all my memory, until the final moments.
In the last conversation he had with me (and i was the last person he spoke to before the morphine allowed him to be at peace and pain free in his final hours), the old engineer discussed how the curtain rod above his bed could be improved. Then he finished by noting, “Oh hell, it’s just a curtain rod.”
Ray, i hope i’ll be looking for curtain rod improvement in my final moments.
And of course, i took heed of my father’s words he considered in my garage as we worked on a project together when he was 87 (but looked and acted like he was even younger than my 77). He paused for a moment, looked at me, and said, “Jim, I’ve had a good life, have a wonderful wife, have good kids, and great grandchildren. All i want now is to go quick.”
He did “go quick” although it was almost a full dozen years later. It took a month and a half for the pneumonia to get it done. Even in that short time, he kept teaching me how to live well.
Now, going quick is on my wish list. It’s time for me to consider such things.
But hey, i got some projects to finish: There is Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings that needs completion of the first draft and severe editing and fact checking. There is my autobiography for Sam, my grandson, to get beyond my fourth grade, which is where i stopped several years ago — i don’t intend to publish this one. It’s just for Sam.
There is Willie Nod, the book of poems for children, essentially completed, that i wrote for Blythe, then Sarah, then Sam; it needs editing, choosing the graphics Sarah compiled for the poems, and completing the layout. There is the draft for Pretty Good Management JD Waits and i co-wrote, which needs to be drastically re-written but will retain the chapter titles of “Never Take a Duck to a Cockfight Expecting to Win,” “Hunt Possums at Night Unless You Are Looking for Road Kill,” “Shoot the Wolf Closest to the Sled,” “The 2×4 Theory of Mule Management,” “Frog Legs Don’t Grow On Chickens,” and several more nearly all the product of JD’s rather amazing mind. And then there is the huge project of a very long novel or a number of short stories about a fictional “New Palestine,” Tennessee.
So if i choose to focus on writing, i think i can finish these and perhaps another book of poetry in…oh about forty-eight years, three months, and two days. Uh, that will put me at 125 years plus a couple of days..
But hey, i’m 77 today.
i’m going to enjoy whatever happens the rest of the way. i am not afraid of anyone or anything. i can’t think of anything i hate other than stupidity; laziness physically and mentally; and bad drivers, the latter of which i can be at times. i do know i will not make my decisions based upon some current fad, some cultural movement, or anyone tied to those movements, and as i have tried to do all my life (failing quite frequently even though my intent was there) to try and do the right thing (Thank you, Peter Thomas).
Since i can no longer play football, racquetball (from a lack of folks who can or are willing to do so with me), cannot ski (i can; but my greatest asset in skiing has been the ability to fall well and not hurt myself; and now, even if i fall well at this age, i am damn sure going to hurt something), and the doc told me not to run (for essentially the same reason i shouldn’t ski) although i might cheat on this one every once in a while, so i am just going to trudge along…and play golf, mostly walking.
i am at the age where everyone younger than me treats me like a child, like i don’t have a clue about what to do what’s best for me. It is almost always presented as something i shouldn’t do that i have always liked to do. i should not drink as much — yeh, i’ve cut back because i wish to be in control of me, but by everyone else’s standards who never came near the craziness and fun i had raising hell, i certainly have and probably still do drink too much. And hell, by their diagnosis it’s probably going to kill me. Of course, just about anything could kill me in the next hour at my age.
i am not supposed to eat damn near everything i really like: sugar, dairy products, salt, steak, hamburgers, pork, hot dogs, chips of all kinds (except the ones that taste awful), hot sauce, grapefruit juice, sausage, bacon, butter, fried anything, potatoes of any variety, tomatoes, eggs, pancakes, cookies, Three Musketeer bars. Hell, there are probably a lot of vegetables i’m not supposed to eat. Apple sauce, maybe? Oh yeh, those slimy green things they call “smoothies.” They are okay, i guess. Just make me gag.
If i obey — and i’ve never been very good at obeying except for those 22 Navy years — i am going to live a long, long time being miserable.
So to hell with that.
i’m not getting into all of the things in this new world requires and doesn’t require, which i am just not up to, because those things have been pretty well covered. It is not beyond my abilities to keep up with most of it, and there are many wonderful advantages to all that is at our fingertips. But i am actually considering, using this infernal machine just to write, dropping social media, ignoring the news, leaving my iPhone at home, you know, like we used to do when we had those things wired to a wall socket, and not turning on any electronic information in my car.
And i still would consider moving to Ireland. But i gotta wife who is a Southwest corner native, and i have superb Navy and VA medical right here in the Southwest corner. She ain’t moving, and i need that medical stuff.
i don’t do casinos, primarily because Maureen has a great dislike for them, and i am terrible at gambling, but i just might sneak away and play a couple of bucks on the slots just to see if that third 7 aligns with the other two.
Happy 77 today to me.