Notes from the Southwest Corner: An Old Man’s Reflection

 

i am violating one of my rules to post this today. i normally wait a day to post my column from The Lebanon Democrat. But what the hey? i’m 72 by three hours and i want my friends to read this on my birthday. i will return to my normal column posting practice next week. i have received a grunch of well wishes, mostly on Facebook concerning this event. This morning, i vowed to respond to every one. But there are a lot of them, and i am old. So it will take a little time, a little time, but thanks in advance.

BONITA, Cal. – When you read this, I will have just turned 72.

Jim Jewell, outside of the Jewell residence on Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, Tennessee, 1948
Jim Jewell, outside of the Jewell residence on Castle Heights Avenue, Lebanon, Tennessee, 1948

Dr. Charles Lowe delivered me at 7:35 am, Wednesday, January 19, 1944, ably assisted by my grandmother, Katherine Webster Prichard at McFarland Hospital. I’m sure Estelle Jewell was glad to get rid of me, unaware of what she would have to put up with for the next 70 years.

My father for whom I was named was in the waiting room. The next day, he caught a train back to his 75th Construction Battalion in Gulfport, Miss.

I have thought about that day and this day, and what it means to me. I am not sure why 72 seems like such a significant age.

Turning 60, 65, and 70 didn’t bother me. Oh, I celebrated like everyone else on those significant milestones with black balloons and bad jokes, but my participation was to make my family and friends who were honoring me feel good about the celebration. I really wasn’t all that caught up in the symbolic meaning.

But why 72? Why does this year seem different, more significant, if you will?

Perhaps it’s because 1972 was a pivotal year in my life. Perhaps it is because part of that significant year was my first daughter, the beautiful and talented Blythe was born. Perhaps it was because my career intentions as a sports writer took a U-turn: I gave up my sports editorship of The Watertown (NY) Daily Times and rejoined the Navy with a four-month Mediterranean deployment at the end of the year.

My life had been altered dramatically.

Perhaps that is why “72” seems significant.

Regardless, I feel I have crossed a meaningful threshold today. Except for a number of minor maladies (which a generation ago would have probably killed me) and various aches and stiffness, I don’t feel old. But this weekend, I took my younger daughter Sarah to Disneyland for her adventure with five friends. I confessed to myself I was old.

After I returned from my chauffeur duties, I considered where I have been and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Although I officially left Lebanon as my home almost a half-century ago, my hometown has been a major factor throughout my life, perhaps more so now than since I left in 1967 for Navy OCS. Lebanon, my family, and my friends have been a wonderful influence on me.

I realized I loved to write and have been doing so ever since Lindsey Donnell and Tom Harris hooked me on writing and J.B. Leftwich hooked me on sports journalism at Castle Heights. The Navy took me to places I would have never seen (even a few I would have cared not to see) and gave me a look at the world and people I would have never appreciated had I not spent about 15 years at sea.

I found websites providing facts about today. One stated my “Life Path” number was 11. I usually ignore such things like horoscopes, fortunetellers, etc., but one of my football jersey numbers was 11, so I read on. My number supposedly meant I possessed “intuition, idealism and invention,” and had “the potential to be a source of inspiration and illumination for people.”

I like that, but it is relatively unimportant when I am 72. The “illumination for people” part intrigues me. I have long thought the older crowd should be a source of information about the past. My mother and father provided me many tales of Lebanon and my family. Their stories enriched my understanding life and helped in my decision making.

Providing stories and observations from the Southwest corner is now my goal. I hope I can provide stories to help younger people make better decisions in their lives – not to emulate me for mine has been a bumpy ride, but what they can consider in determining their own paths.

Sometime today, I will remember a conversation I had with my father when he was 86 and on his last trip to the Southwest corner. We were on a task in the garage, when he stopped, looked at me and said, “Son, I’ve had a good life. I have a wonderful wife, good kids, and great grandkids. Now, I only want one thing: When I go, I want it to be quick.”

Celebrating my 72nd birthday, I completely understand what he meant.

 

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