Rambling Thoughts of a Septuagenarian

Been quite a while for me to be away from writing here.

Been working. Home projects, cleaning, organizing, those kind of things. Been thinking. Been goofing off. Been wrestling…with myself. i’ve also been working on my book; not enough, mind you, but working on it. And yes, i’ve been playing (sort of) golf.

You see, i am a septuagenarian. In fact, i’m smack dab in the middle of septuagenarianism (and yes, Blythe Jewell Gander, Judy Gray, and several other grammarians of note, i made that up). In spite of my parents living just shy of ninety-seven and ninety-nine, i am surprised to still be here. When i was in my late teens, early twenties, i figured i would flame out before i reached fifty. i had given up my dream of being a  super three-sport star excelling in football, basketball, and baseball, and making it to the college and professional hall of fame in each sport. Oh yes, i also expected to be the next Roy Rogers on the silver screen.

Yeh, i dreamed big.

When the realization my dreams were not to be smacked me in my unrealistic head, i decided somewhat vaguely i would be a jazz guitar player playing solo in a small night club and die of some strange digestive disorder in a single flat in an old apartment building in downtown San Francisco .

Now this kind of plan or whatever one might call such a strange ambition is really remarkable considering who i was and where i was. i have no idea of how a Tennessee small country town boy could come up with such an idea. i was a decent athlete but by no means the best in Lebanon or Castle Heights. i was also about a foot short and a hundred pounds light of even being considered as a star athlete. i had no concept of what San Francisco was like. i could barely play the piano and couldn’t hit a lick on a guitar. i really had no interest in playing jazz. Hell, i wasn’t even sure what jazz really was at the time. It just seemed like a cool thing to me…and i didn’t see any neat thing about living past fifty.

These thoughts were even more remarkable because at the same time in my life i decided the happiest people in the world were farmers. They got up at four, milked the cows, fed the chickens, gathered the eggs, had a big breakfast, worked hard all morning, had a dinner (noon meal, you non-Southerners) of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, and another vegetable all from the farm, drank buttermilk, went back out into the fields to work until the cows were called in around four, called it a day, got a cane pole, and some bait and walked down to the river and fished for a while, had a light supper, and went to bed around eight. i thought they got a lot of satisfaction out of their work and their land and didn’t have to fool with all of the other fools in this world, at least as little as possible.

Yup, i had crazy thoughts then. Still do. But i am no longer amazed i’m still here.

My mind about this obviously changed somewhat.

Then this morning, i went early to get a blood test. It seems now that i’m older, blood tests are a way of life. i’ve learned some tricks about blood testing. Like going early so if i have to fast i won’t have too long after waking up to eat. Also if you wait until later even with an appointment you could be in the waiting room like forever. As i sat in the lobby as second in line this morning, i wondered why waiting in the lobby was such a big deal to me. After all, i’m retired. i’ve got all day.

But it went quickly and i headed home as school was beginning. It so happens the route home, if one avoids the busiest four-lane surface streets, goes right by our old house, the original one for Maureen and i, and an elementary school.

i was struck by the traffic. Not just traffic, but crazy people trying to beat others to the drop off point to the point of cutting other people off, speeding in the school zone, and acting like the world belonged to them alone. Never have understood that. Marveled at it when i would pick up Sarah from Burton Tiffany Elementary years ago. Crazy people.

Then i thought about home. A long time ago. Home. Walking to school. Really pretty much on my own from six years on. Had to let ’em know where i was going. Had to get home for dinner and supper (yes, it was Southern) even though i was not really good about that and Mother didn’t have a cell phone back then. i saw the school children being ushered in, protected, more parents and supervisors than children almost. No cops. Hmm…We had a policeman in the morning and afternoon, and school patrol. Period. i can’t remember any teachers being anywhere near Main Street. Am i just fondly inaccurately remembering?

Freedom. That’s what i thought when i ran into that school traffic this morning. i don’t know if it’s better, worse, or the same only different for those children. But there certainly isn’t a lot of freedom for them. Yeh, this goes along with not going out to play, watching television, playing computer games, all that. And then when they are older, playing music that can blow your brains out of your ears and offensive to anyone older than fifty. Don’t get it. Where’s the tune? Where’s the love song? Where’s the slow dance? Where’s the music to make you wanna dance, not jump and down as in some ancient ritual?

Our parents knew we were going to hell (Hmm, maybe they had something there), listening to that music, swinging our hips like that, combing our hair back, not doing the waltz or foxtrot. Hell, i tell you. So, i will not berate those kids next door who had a poolside birthday this afternoon and blew open the kitchen door with the decibels, although they probably didn’t. i probably didn’t shut it all the way and the dog got out. But that’s my excuse. Man, there was enough testosterone over the fence this afternoon to eradicate the need for viagra if it could be captured and transferred to old men.

i remembered Hazelwood and Horn Springs. Swimming. Sun. Girls in bathing suits, diving and laughing. Bobby Darin singing “Splish Splash,” Bill Doggett playing “Honky Tonk.” Oh, i pined for those girls. Never had a steady after Elaine Davis in the eighth grade until i fell in love about a dozen times in less than six years. Those boys next door seemed so sure of themselves, laughing and yelling. i wonder if any of them felt lonely like i did. Ahh, but they didn’t have Roy Orbison singing “Only the Lonely.”

Different? Yes. i can’t judge. Too old. Not too old, but too distant, too removed to really have a clue what they are going through.

Yet i can’t help thinking our world lost something when children quit walking to school, when all of the sports were invented by the children, not organized, where television was something kids watched in the late afternoon and the Saturday morning shows on television. When the Saturday movies had cartoons and good guys and bad guys and the good guys always won by playing fair.

And the world was smaller, much smaller, like maybe five, ten miles from the square at best because the big city, Nashville was thirty miles away, a day trip.

An oh i could go on and on, and probably have too much, and probably will take up this theme again and again.

You understand? i miss my growing up in Lebanon, Tennessee in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It’s a lost world. That makes me sad.

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