I’ve heard many people say, “when my time comes, I’m going to slide in like a baseball player slides into home. I’ll be whooping and hollering, screaming and singing. People will know I have lived my life to it’s fullest!” I think if that’s the way you want to go, great! I have a different idea. My thoughts have been shaped as I have been walking down the road of life.
In my younger days, high school, I was there for the party. If beer or other alcohol was involved I was there early. To this day I am amazed that I lived through that time. A steady stream of beer was not hard to come by as “garaging” was very popular in my day. We just went from garage to garage in our neighborhood and snitched beer right out of garage refrigerators. My next door neighbor, in fact, was the head brewmaster for a major brewery. He did not have room in his garage for a car because his garage was stacked wall to wall and floor to ceiling with beer. A teen’s dream. All good things must come to an end, my good times were about to crash into the wall.
One night, after a big party out in the woods near my home, I stumbled home about 4:30 am. Way too much whooping and hollering and I found myself hugging the toilet making buicks when the bathroom door opened. There stood my dad, “Are ya having fun?” I can’t remember what I grunted; but, his response was, “Your boss called last night. They need you at 6:00 am and you will be there.” He spoke the truth because I was climbing into a moving truck about 6:15 am the next morning. The worst part was yet to come. By the time our crew pulled up to the thirty-floor office building they all knew my plight. The boss had me operate the elevator that day. The air conditioning had been shut off and I rode up and down the hottest elevator ever for twelve hours. Leaning over the garbage can in the elevator with the world’s worst hangover, I knew I would be changing my ways. No more beer drinking if I have to work the next day. This was a pretty good lesson on my dad’s part.
My life made a change for the better in my twenty-first year, I married the love of my life. We started a family soon after and I found a new rhythm to my life. I went to work in the paper industry and made a life-long career. I made a good living working as much overtime as I could handle. I started out as rod knocker and worked my way up to a lead operator and finally made Process Manager. The money and the hours got better, but the work was hard. In my off hours, I helped with the children as they grew, attending many sporting events, concerts, school programs and other activities my children were involved in.
I coached one of my daughter’s little league softball teams for several years. They won several citywide championships. It was a fun time. I also played softball in a men’s league and participated in three on three basketball tournaments. I ran and lifted weights. Between work and sports, I was burning the candle at both ends. During this time, my wife held our family together with her love and devotion.
I know everyone has heard that time passes in a blink of an eye, I would say that is an accurate statement. My memories of that time are so dear that a tear will often drip from my eye as I recall each moment. Time did move on and our children eventually began their own lives. There was college, marriages, grandchildren and my wife and I found ourselves as empty nesters. No complaints just another change in the rhythm of our days. I will admit to some feelings of impending age at the thought of becoming a grandfather for the first time. I didn’t feel old enough to be a grandaddy! I would ask my wife, “do I look like a grandaddy?” I soon discovered that being a grandfather was the best and easiest thing in the world. My only job now is to give love, hugs, and kisses. My wife and I enjoy attending their events, soccer games, science fairs, gymnastics, dance recitals and school awards. I have spent some time watching my grandson as he masters his skateboard. I marvel over how his body moves and maneuvers that skateboard into all the tricks he can do. I also think about how much time I might have to spend in the hospital if I were to try skateboarding.
I admit I also enjoy having my wife to myself these days. I love her and I am happy that she is still my best friend. We spend many contented hours talking over everything from what we should have for dinner to solving issues of world peace. We laugh with each other and we also just enjoy the quiet of being together. I walk my dogs every day, they bring me so much joy. My life is still full.
I had continued to run for a while during this empty nest time. My oldest daughter and I were running partners in several 5K’s. But running began to get harder for me. I had to tell my daughter to go ahead, I would meet her at the finish line. I could not help but beam with pride as she pulled ahead with a graceful stride. I had a feeling that my times of running with her were coming to an end, soon after a doctor told me my body was worn out.
I had my first heart attack when I was fifty-three and then a string of bad health followed. These days my rhythm is slow. I rely on my wife and youngest daughter to take care of me. They put me in the truck and take me to the grandchildren’s events or out shopping. I am not stupid, I know they keep watch over me, ready to jump into action if needed. I usually spend Mondays with my baby girl and her daughter, Rowen. This is my “Rowie” time. One Monday, Rowen and I were playing with Lincoln Logs on the floor. I guess I had dozed off for awhile because I startled awake. I was reassured with a pat on my arm and the words from, my granddaughter Rowen, “Don’t worry Grandaddy, I’m here.” Loving words from a four-year-old.
I spend a lot of time studying the Bible these days. I write out thoughts for my children. I may learn to strum the guitar. Things do change. I think I’ll go with the words from the balladeer, Tom T. Hall. I’m going out in my rocking chair singing, “Old dogs, and children, and watermelon wine,” with a big smile on my face. No Regrets.