Golden years?

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Larry Hayes is now North of 77 years old!

I’m sure I’m in better shape than most of the guys 77 years old.

I walk four miles plus in Foster Park every day, rain or shine, 90s or zero. If it’s icy, I just slip on my spikes.

If the snow is deep, I head for Glenbrook shopping mall once the streets have been cleared to walk for an hour or so.

I gave up jogging after I developed a stress fracture in my heel. But once that’s healed I probably won’t return to jogging. The risk of a fall is too great.

That, in turn, might lay me up for weeks if not permanently.

So I walk as fast as I can manage it.

I once heard New York’s famous anti-war minister William Sloan Coffin tell a congregation that it’s not so hard growing older.

“It just takes longer.”

That’s a big part of the story for sure. It takes me longer to get dressed for some reason. It takes longer to shop at Kroger’s, which I often do twice a week.

It seems to take me a lot longer to read the morning paper. It certainly takes longer for me to read a book.

“Grow old along with me / The best is yet to be.”

That’s how the poem begins. I don’t recall any of my students of long ago questioning the poet’s reasoning.

Of course, that was quite a few years before I had celebrated 77 birthdays.

I would argue that age has its benefits. No, people don’t step aside to let me pass at the store.

I don’t get asked for advice in matters of love or business. I do appreciate that son John calls me regularly to see how I’m doing.

But he doesn’t ask for advice or anything else. He doesn’t even sound as if he’s worried about me. Maybe he is. That’s OK.

Back to the benefits of aging. I’m sure I’m slower to anger. In fact, I don’t even recall a recent occasion when I got upset.

Sure, retired editorial writer that I am, I’m following the presidential race. I’m just not talking back to the TV or feeling especially distressed that the country might elect a real estate tycoon president.

That’s what I mean about the benefits. At 77, you can step back from the political debates and from the complaints in the city about garbage pickup or road construction.

Frankly, I love to feel somewhat removed from the national political debates. It’s a feeling that would have served me well when one friend called me “thunder in the mountain.”

I do take satisfaction that my writing for the paper helped spur the desegregation of the schools and the development of better services for people with mental illness.

When Mom, who still lived in Ohio, was in her 80s, we moved her to a retirement home in our Indiana city.

During her first years there, she still could play bridge and work crossword puzzles. So Golden Years Homestead, the name of the home, suited her well.

But her last years, as she grew into her 90s, weren’t so golden. Of course, I don’t know if that’s my future, as well.

I simply refuse to speculate on that. I mean to make the most of each day. I mean to be as good a husband, father, grandfather and friend as I can be.

I do miss the jogging.

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January is OK, too

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2016-new-year-ss-1920I promised my wife Toni that I’d help take down the Christmas tree tomorrow.

Yes, I know it’s well into the new year, January 8 to be exact. I suppose a lot of people take down their tree and put away the ornaments and decorations the day after Christmas.

I’m glad to enjoy looking at the tree and the various collections of Santas and Christmas stockings for a few more days, even a week. What’s the rush?

We’re not the only family that spends a month getting ready for the holiday. Merchants at the mall aren’t featuring specials on Easter decorations. The sales are a bustling postscript to Christmas.

I made an appearance there just this morning. Mere rain doesn’t prevent me from hiking in nearby Foster Park. I just slip on my waterproof jacket and pants. But today it was cold enough to freeze in spots. I can get my walk in if it’s mostly ice. I just slip my spikes onto my New Balance shoes. Some ice on the walk sends me to the mall.

I suppose I’ve been saying for years that the Christmas holiday is over too fast. Well, if you’re just counting hours, you’ll see the holiday lasts just the same time as every other day of the year.

But I do enjoy the weeks of build-up, the shopping, the carols, the planning and the nice mood the holiday seems to have conferred on everybody.

For most people, it’s now back to the routine. Teachers and students have heard the bells and have joined everybody rushing down the hallways. The teachers’ lounge empties. Now from the front of the classroom, the she appeals for attention from students eager to share their holiday adventures.

Meantime, factories and stores fill with employees and customers. The newsroom where I spent a big chunk of my adult life settles back into a familiar routine. Even New Years’ hangovers have become just an unwelcome memory.

Well, nearly 12 months of a new day lie ahead. What will I make of this next year? In my student years, I could vow to study more, study harder. As a family featuring a spouse and children materialized around me, I could vow to listen better and help out more.

But at 77, I’ve probably exhausted the resolutions I could conjure. I wouldn’t say I’m as good as I’m going to get. Realistically, that’s probably the case, though I can hope for making minor course corrections.

I can think of two things to look forward to in 2016. First, I mean to do all the exercises the therapist has given me to cure my sore arm and shoulder. Second, I’m sure Toni and I will agree on our next travel adventure.

Of course, there’s that Christmas tree to take down and put away for next year. The season will be here before you know it. I can’t wait.

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I love a birthday

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WhiteBirthdayCakeAs I woke her up this morning, my wife sang “Happy Birthday,” which was the perfect way to start my 75th celebration.

Next, we took a four-mile walk in Foster Park and visited with friends along the route. That included the mother of our lawn boy who recently left for his first year of college, at the University of Dayton.

Somebody – I forget who – seemed surprised when I confessed to my age. That person replied that I certainly don’t look my age. Maybe not and I take such an observation as a compliment.

The price I pay for not looking my age is push-ups – 75 today and sit-ups, 100. These are my basic early morning warm-ups, plus a long jog or long walk sped along by Nordic walking poles.

But there’s really no way of not growing older. A person can stay physically and mentally active and keep fit as possible. I avoid getting overweight by stepping on the scales every day. If my weight has edged up, I watch what I eat for the next day or so. Of course, today, since it’s my birthday, I’ll wolf down a nice dessert and not worry if tomorrow’s reading on the bathroom scales tells me I gained a pound or two.

Also, I try not to get too compulsive about my weight. Worrying about such things isn’t good for one’s health, either.

This afternoon, my wife and I attended Cinema Center to see a new film, “Unfinished Song.” It was about an older couple dealing with the wife’s terminal illness and the husband’s foul moods. By the end of the story, despite the wife’s death, the husband has recovered his sense of joy and made peace with his son. Most movingly, he sung a heart-rending solo before a large audience. That helped win a contest for the choir of oldsters who backed him up.

At dinner my son asked me what other birthday was my fondest memory. The first thing that came to mind was my sixth birthday. We played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. And the gift I got from one of the kids – I think a neighbor – was a box of Lincoln Logs. It was my favorite that year.

My granddaughters kept the conversation light by teasing me about my pronunciation of a French phrases. So relaxed, it was hard to resist the temptation to eat even more of the dishes and dessert my wife had prepared.

A birthday is a time for a person to take stock of his life. For me at 75 now, it’s a time to consider ways to enjoy each day more. And I will decide what new adventures I’d like to undertake in the next few years.

I confess though I’m preoccupied with planning for our upcoming trip to France, one country neither my wife nor I has visited. Such trips can open doors to seeing a person’s life and others in a new light. Mark Twain noted that travel is a killer to prejudice. Well, it often is.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve enjoyed yet another birthday. For me, it’s not been so much a time to look back. Rather, it’s a time to look ahead, to make the best of each new year, each new day. And I get to write the next chapter.

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