birthdays

The Funny Thing About Aging

First of all, IS there anything funny about aging?

Probably, I just can’t think of anything right now.

I can tell you this much—the aches and pains associated with aging are no laugh riot.    The weird smells and certain odd little hairs that start growing in the damnedest places don’t warrant a chuckle.     There are other issues…balance problems, visions and hearing impairments, the napping which you so LOATHED as a child, but crave past age 55 are all interesting phenomenon, but not funny,

I have an arthritic knee that hurts me every second of the day.   I have injuries from  a severe car accident 26 years ago that time has only made worse.   I have sclerotic lesions in/on my hippocampus within my brain, I tire more easily, I have balance issues, I can’t hear as well as I once could,  can no longer drive at night, I can’t drive without glasses during the day and the thought of driving long trips alone scare me .  I’ve lost very close friends.    Death knows aging well because from the beginning of time, aging co-opted with death.    It doesn’t own the rights exclusively.    Death takes the young, too.   But those of us at a certain age may not obsess over our mortality, but the changes we feel mentally and physically, make it hard not to realize it’s a ever closer eventuality.

As for me, I can’t remember things.   I’d rather be home and watching TV on a Saturday night And I’ve become extremely confrontational.   I’m talking well beyond shouting things like, ,  “And I would have gotten away with it to if it hadn’t been for your meddling kids!!!”.  No, it’s beyond that.     In the past six month, I’ve made three people cry……one was a Marine.

With a few exceptions, I didn’t experience any these things as recently as five years ago.   But here I am.    It’s because I’m older and with aging

But as much as life physically hurts every single second of every single day, I wouldn’t go back.   Even well before the pains caused from my accident. If I had a Fairy Godmother and in a poof of glittery dust and smoke, appeared before me, magic wand in hand and said she’d  grant me the ability to go back and relive my youth starting at any age,  I’d politely decline.    I would ask if she could completely remove certain people from my past, and even if she could, I wouldn’t go back.

My niece is turning 35 tomorrow.   She’s a college educated woman,  married to a man not afraid to be a good husband and father to their six and eight year old children.     She says she’s content in life and as far as turning one year older, she says what everyone says about birthdays…..”it’s only a number”.

Well, it is…..and it isn’t.        My heart bursts with joy for the 94-year- old (a number) who can still swim two miles everyday,    My heart aches for the 79 year-old (a number) to enduring the awful ravages of Alzheimer’s.

When I turned 35, it too was just a number, then fast forward 24 years—another number.

Aging is a slow process that acts rapidly.     I’m not bouncing off the walls with glee about being 58, but the thought of having to repeat everything that got me here,  galls me so that it makes being here worth it.

My life was graced with a certain flaw that ironically, has proven to be rather beneficial.   Failure wasn’t always an option….at times,  it was a necessity and with each one came new knowledge.      I’m not saying I failed on purpose, most of mine came in the form of bad decisions.    Entering into bad jobs or relationships perhaps subconsciously knowing I was repeating a cycle.    But with each failure came new knowledge.    With knowledge comes wisdom and wisdom, serves as a doorman for gratitude.    And with gratitude comes a better life, whether it’s  lived out in a mansion in the Hamptons or in a dilapidated two room hovel in Compton.     It’s all about gratitude concerning who you are and what you have…..but not the stuff you have.   It’s about your contributions, the good you do….the satisfaction you get from doing something worthwhile.

And then you keep quiet about it.    Keep it to yourself.      I’ve learned that the hard way.    It can be very unfair to proselytize one’s gratitude or happiness….even the ability to do good.   You keep quiet about how much money you have in the bank, or the  “perfection” of your marriage, your wonderful, superhuman children, your terrific body, your health, that oh so glorious trip to Bali that’ll take you ten years to pay off.    You know, things like that and basically, every other lie on Facebook.

It’s like being in high school…..we’re not all Seniors.     Some still have to go through our Sophomore and  Junior years to reach that level of matriculation.   Everyone has to go through their lives as youngsters and middle agers…..as inevitably, as very old people.

So, I urge you to embrace your present, the right here and now, dear niece,    I urge that of everyone.   I do  that because you’ll go to sleep tonight and wake up 30 years from now.  Aging happens that quickly.    See?   A second has already passed since reading that last sentence.    And in this life there are a very limited number of do-overs, providing you have the awareness to even try to redeem yourself should the situation arise.    Some  can walk blithely through life unaware of the disruption they’ve caused, the pain they’ve inflicted.     But then again, one person’s need for privacy and solo down-time might be deemed as neglect and abandonment by someone else.     Death for some (suicide) is the only solution for what’s thought  to be an extremely desperate situation.    For others,  it’s the scariest abaract on earth.    Man, life isn’t only short, it’s also extraordinarily confusing.

So, for the self- conciliatory belief that birthdays  are only a number well, they are, but it depends entirely depends on the number.   I would never say “it’s only a number” to someone turning 43 (a number) who has Stage 4 (also a number) liver failure.    Like your Facebook embellishments, please keep that to yourself.

As for anything being funny about aging?     Well, how about this:     Three old guys, all hard of hearing, were playing golf one spring afternoon.   One says to another, “Windy, isn’t it?” “No,” the second man answers, “it’s Thursday.” The third guy, listening in, pipes up, “So am I! Let’s grab a beer.”

 

 

 

 

Good Advice On This, My 52nd Birthday

Dear Laurie,

I know you have a birthday coming up soon and while presents are wonderful and I have no problem in obtaining one for you, I thought this 52nd birthday of yours deserved to be a little special, so my gift this auspicious year will be different.

I’ll preface this letter by telling you that I think I’ve only recently learned that life is about risk, taking chances and at least, occasionally glimpsing over that scary proverbial edge. As you know, I just turned 76 in January and I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I’ve spent my life in a safe  vacuum, unwilling to do anything that might affect my health, well-being and longevity. 

But all I did was compromise my happiness.  

I reflect back on my life, as I’m sure you’re doing, and I didn’t think I had any significant regrets, but I do.    Your Aunt Stella and I were too frightened, for reasons that I can’t even fathom now.  We read every self-help book; believed every news report about the evils of eggs, saccharin, beef, red M&M’s, alcohol consumption and smoking.

What predicated this letter to you?  Realization mostly, inspired by an email I received around my birthday this year.    

Seems this fellow visited his regular GP for a  check up when the test results came back, he called the man back into his office.  He asked the Doc how he was doing medically.  He told the guy that he was  “for a man of his age”.   The man was a bit rattled by the response, since he’d tried to live the healthiest life possible.  

So, he told the doctor, “I’m not sure what that means. I consider myself to be a very careful, very healthy 76-year-old guy. I’ve tried to live by the book, so what do you think, Doc?   Will I live to the age of 85 and beyond, maybe?”

The doctor just looked at the guy and cocked his head.  “Well, answer a few questions for me.  Do you drink alcohol of any kind to any degree?   What about drugs?  Do you eat red meat, Bar-B-Q beef and pork with all the trimmings and endure periods of stress and insomnia?”

“I do none of those things.   I sleep fairly well, too!”

He squinted his eyes.  “Do you work out?  Race cars?    Do you gamble, bowl, watch sports, play pool, have evenings out with the guys?”   

“Oh no, no!  I exercise in moderation only.  I don’t want to risk injury. Gambling is a vice I want to live without, thank you and sports is nothing but relatively civilized savagery”.

He asked, “No lifting weights, crunches?”  

“Never.  Plus I rarely socialize.  My wife is my best friend.  It’s pretty much just her and I.  We watch educational TV and documentaries and we ONLY listen to classical music and the occasional opera.  Candide and La Boheme are my favorites.  And I’d never risk life and live by driving fast.  In fact, obey all speed limits.  I’m proud to admit that I drive conservatively in my American-made sedans.  Had them all my life.”

He continued on with this questioning.  “Do you like being in the sun, sailing, playing golf, swim, tennis, jogging, cycling or hiking?  What about yard work?

“I do none of those things. I’m extremely fastidious.  I hate getting dirty.   As I’ve told you, I live life very safely.  I don’t tempt fate.   Unprotected exposure to natural sunlight  is a carcinogen!”

He then asked, “What about sex, in your marriage bed or extramaritally?”

“Oh no!”, the guy answered.  ” My wife and I care for each other, but we agreed to stop having sex 17 years ago.  We figured our bodies didn’t need the over exertion.   We’re celibate and we couldn’t be closer!  Nor would I or could I ever even contemplate an affair with some tarted up floozie.  I believe in the sanctity of marriage and celibacy only adds to the quality of ours!”

He looked puzzled and removed his glasses.  “Really?  All you’ve told me is  true?”

The man proudly responded “Yes!!.   So lastly,  do you think I’m going to live long enough to reach 80 and beyond?”

He shook his head.   “With the way you’ve lived your life, why would you even give a shit?”

I started thinking about this email and even though I know it’s a joke,  it helped me come to the conclusion  that I’ve probably never actually lived my life.  I merely existed in it.  I merely experienced whatever came my way.  I never sought anything.   Life happened and fear of something I’m not even sure of forced me to live under a rock and, I suppose, a bunch of lies.   Namely those which I told myself. 

I don’t want you to wake up 30-years from now and wonder if you’ve done enough, read enough, loved enough, been loved enough, helped others enough and laughed enough.   I don’t want you to die without ever having seen Barcelona or the Turks and Caicos islands.   I want you live your life and take chances.   It’s completely worth the risk.  Live your life in Technicolor, Laurie.   It’s like that damn candy commercial, Laurie:  that one that urges young consumers to feel the rainbow. Hell, do one better… live in it.

You’ve got a lot of life ahead of you.  In many ways, the best part of your life has yet to unfold.   Grab it and go.  Anticipate all the wonders that are being laid out before you.   In many ways, turning 52 is a gift as is every year you age.  It really is.   Maybe you don’t regard it as such now, but you will in time.   It’s sad that time only stands till when it’s in the past.  But look at it this way, at least its standing still which gives you a terrific chance to learn from it from every angle.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must end this tome and make plans for this evening.   I’m taking your aunt Stella out for a romantic dinner and dancing.   I’m thinking steaks and a terrific Pinot… maybe a bottle or two.   Then, I’m calling the municipal airport to inquire about skydiving lessons for this Saturday and if I can secure a lesson at that time, I plan on driving above the speed limit to get there faster, while listening to loud music on the radio and eating peanut M&M’s.    

I hope they melt in my hand.   

Regrets, Laurie;  they’ll age you before your years.  So, carpe anos, Darlin’ Niece !!!    And have fun.  I mean real fun on your birthday.  Hope it’s a great one!

Always, 
Uncle Bob

Dear Uncle Bob,

Thank you for your letter.  It contained sage advice.  

You know, I’ve lived a very interesting life and  I’ve rarely held back doing what I’ve wanted to do.  Accomplishing this was more pressing in my younger years.   But make no mistake, I had a good time just living.   But back then, I suppose I felt as thought I had all the time in the world to make errors.   I don’t feel that way now.   I’m learning the definition of “finite” with the passing of each and everyday.   And like you, that makes me want to make the days leading up to my end of days,  count for something.

Want to know something else, Uncle Bob?  I’m OK with the past four decades.   I can look back on my life and smile for the most part.  That being said,  I really don’t have any regrets regarding what I’ve done….but rather, who I’ve done.   But those demons continue to be released in the wild.    I continue working on forgiving myself for any indiscretion that 25 years later, still makes me cringe.   Very soon I fully intend to wake up and realize that all of this is rapidly moving water under a very steadfast bridge.

As birthdays go and the milestones they represent,  I’ll turn 52 whether I want to or not.   As long as I continue to draw breath, aging is an unavoidable fact of life.   I’m accepting that.   In the few waning hours I have left of living in the 51st year of my life, I’ll just talk myself down from  that miserable,  lonely ledge and be grateful for everything.   I appreciate this new mindset.  I’m beginning to see that every mistake I’ve made was actually a positive move.    In other words, I’ve often been right, even when I was wrong.

You know better than most, Uncle ,  life is very hard.   On good days–if we’re lucky–for many of us, all we can aspire to is just  settling at the level of  “maddening”.    It’s not always easy living in  the constant effigy and apogee of existence.   But this–be it good, bad or indifferent–is our lot in life. 

To quote Dorothy Parker, “might as well live”.

I can make no promises,  I’ve learned better than to do that,  but I will do my best to make every effort to start loving better and being loved better.  I’ll read more, be less cynical, be silent more, go inward more and count my soul’s blessings more often.   I might try Ethiopian food, learn what Samhain is all about,  learn the Tanakh, learn more about fiscal and emotional charity and all the while, I’ll doff  that weight loss nonsense that’s plagued me my entire life and just live life a little easier.

Certainly sweeter.

Here’s proof:

mandms

Just this morning for absolutely no reason at all, I drove to Galveston and cruised the beach with the windows open, and an old Emerson, Lake and Palmer CD blasting while eating a bag of of M&Ms.

As you can see, I didn’t even give  them a chance to melt.

Thanks Uncle Bob.     Your wisdom is always welcome here.

Love,  Laurie

;

Eureka!!! I Found It

I feel a little bit like Madame Curie…but without all that pesky radiation sickness.

I discovered something today, or rather rediscovered something.  After years of an exhaustive search to rekindle a small but important part of my childhood, I finally found ‘it”.   An object so profound to my youth it made me emotional.

I’m talking about my first NEW bike.

Picture this, if you will…  

DATELINE:  April 22, 1969, Karnes City, Texas   

I had just turned 10 years old and felt as though that was old enough to have my own bicyle.  A new one…not one handed down from two older sisters, as had been the case for me since birth.  It made sense, to me.  I was ready.  I was ten and I’d been riding this hand-me-down-clunker from circa 1959.   It was an archaic two wheeler;  a  green Western Flyer number complete with a light for nightime riding, which I remember working infrequently and when it did, the light was dim and distorted.   

It was the big 1950’s bike, obviously one for girls that I would imagine Jane of “Dick and Jane” fame would have ridden. 

Remember those early first grade primers that represented the quintessence of sight reading??  They centered around this homogenized Anglo family whose sterilized antics taught generations of Americans how to read.    Who could forget Jane, her brother Dick, Mother and Father, Baby Sally….the family dog, Spot (who we all witnessed running alot, to the amusement of his simple minded, bi-peds,”See Spot run!” and always in the present tense) and Puff the Cat.  

I can remember my first exposure to Dick and Jane in Mrs. Garner’s first grade class.  By the way, she was a large woman who always smelled like pickle juice for some reason AND taught my mother and father first grade, plus most of my aunts, uncles and cousins.   This is quite common for small towns with large families.  My mother was one of nine kids.  

Anyway, when it came time for the reading segment of our class, we would read out loud and I can remember doing well in this subject, but being completely vexed by the word “something”.  It was long and try as I might to sound it out, that damned silent ‘e’ confounded me.    

Then, from Dick and Jane to these exercises that came in a box and you progressed to the next advanced level via color coding.  Anyone remember the SRA reading program?   

 Teacher, Donald Henry Parker was the brains behind this program.  The idea for a self-paced system came to him in 1957.  It was one of the first intended for remediation and encouraging students to learn at their own speed…to ensure comfort in the act and comprehension of it all.

It was a system of  folders, workbooks and glossy laminated cards designed to help students master one level before moving to the next.   I seem to remember orange being the lowest…where everyone started…and that reaching silver and then the gold level was the ultimate goal.    I can remember being introduced to the SRA  in third grade.  All the materials were kept in a box in the back of the room. 

Sorry, got off on a rant.

But as I was saying, I was ready for something sporty…wild…groovy…something that was representative of the changing times in which we were living.  This was 1969, after all.

So, it’s my birthday, right?  And my father announces that there’s a huge mess on the back porch and I need to come clean it up, NOW, LITTLE MISSY!    Expecting a mound of dog shit piled high from Friskie our beloved, but old and incontinent Cocker Spaniel, I instead laid eyes on the coolest bike ever made.

It was a Western Auto bike (in the Muscle Bike genre, patterned after an Easy Rider Chopper motorcycle).    The back tire was bigger than the front one.   It had  butterfly handle bars, a banana seat (black with vertical silver threading all the way across).  It had coaster brakes and yes, one handle bar brake and a double pipe cross bar (sure it was a boys bike, but I didn’t care.  Besides, you could stand up on the cross bar when you rode it, if you dared, which I did..often.   Balance and this ridiculous, unflinching sense of immortality were my friends!!) and it had the COOLEST DAMN PAINT JOB ON THE PLANET!!!!

It was called a lemon/lime fade and once you see the bike, you’ll understand. 

I’d been looking for this bike or a photo of it for I don’t know how long and finally…FINALLY found it this morning.  Apparently, a collector from the Northeast had one just like mine.    As you can see, it’s in mint condition.  I almost cried when I first saw it.

Okay, you’ve been in suspense long enough.  Here’s the damn bike. 

BEAUTIFUL….

This bike was replaced in three years later in 1972, with a candy apple red, Columbia Men’s 10 Speed Cruiser complete with an attached air pump and plastic water bottle (with holder under the seat) that made every liquid it contained taste like ass.    I have no idea what happened to my Western Auto lemon/lime fade Wild One and hated to see it go, but with pre-teen development  and boy insanity,  comes the need for a more adult bike.   You see,  when I transformed from a concave titted sappling, to a convex boobed young woman, I needed something seriously mature so I could immaturely ride by boys’ houses.     

What about you?  Remember your bike or bikes form childhood?  Tell me about it.  Better yet, include a photo in your comments.  I’d LOVE to see it.

,

Loving Words To Myself On This, My 51st

lovelk1.jpg

 

And really, don’t we all???

But seriously…

I turn 51 years old today.  

As I sit here and  audaciously think I have anything of merit to tell you; that you’d want to read, I have to marvel that I’ve made it to this ripe old age.

I really don’t want this to turn in to another one of those patented long-winded, Kendrick self-indulgences, but if you’ll indulge me this ONE LAST TIME.

It is my birthday after all, and I promise there won’t be another one until mjaybe…..April 22, 2011.   .

OK, so let’s begin this “all about me” epic with a brief  look back at my 50th year on this Big Blue Marble.  It was eventful.  I didn’t go to Malta.  I didn’t run the Boston Marathon.  That book still hasn’t been written and I didn’t complain about it to my BFF Paris Hilton while sipping Toddies at an apres ski party in Gstaad.   No, I spent most of my 50th year unemployed and  wishing it were my 12th year and that proved disastrous.  When I came to my senses, I dismissed two significantly negative factors in my life.   That was auspicious.   It was a belated birthday gift I gave myself primarily for having survived half a century. 

And those two terrifically bad, abysmal relationships.

But my life is more than just a litany of dead-end relationships and break ups, is it not?   There are other components; living, breathing parts that comprise who I am and they are my family and friends–that well insulated inner circle who have a sense of my love of oranges and burnt orange football jerseys.  Therefore, if I’m learning to be a better me; to respect my authentic self and revere my elevated one, then the object lesson that entails must include the people I love.

Laurie “Kierkegaard” Kendrick

But what do I really know about them?

For HER, I know SHE loves Cokes, Chico’s clothing and comfy shoes and could spend the rest of HER life watching reruns of “I Love Lucy” and “The Andy Griffith Show” (black and white episodes only).

I know SHE loves diamond jewelry and shopping and SHE believes a new house will make HER happy. SHE wants to be treated like a queen. My prayer for HER is that someday soon, SHE will be.

SHE is stuck between a marital rock and hard place.  SHE is a beautiful woman who doesn’t always see HERSELF in that role.   SHE wants a friend first and foremost and will find that Golden Egg when SHE befriends herself.   We can’t find in others what we need and want, if we ourselves, can’t supply it first.   We sustain ourselves.  No one else can.

I know SHE loves beer and Bloody Marys and experienced too much pain in HER life. Someday, I hope SHE’LL drink HER favorite libations strictly because SHE enjoys their taste and not as an indulgent means to incapacitate pain.   SHE can’t keep some bad from unfolding around HER, no matter how tough it gets.    Then again, is that because bad is all she allows HERSELF to see?

SHE is getting older and will not be told what to do. SHE refuses advice and continues to be limited in HER ability to love and can only do so on occasion. SHE can now only express it incrementally and with currency. This is all SHE knows; all SHE’S capable of doing. Part of my loving HER requires that I forgive HER for this.  Part of HER learning to love HERSELF requires HER to forgive HERSELF

HE is stuck in a marriage that he doesn’t always want to be stuck in.   But HE’S too scared to leave and too miserable to stay, so HE compensates–or so HE thinks–by appllying his version of salve to all his emotional wounds.  Salve meaning excessive drinking.    Alcoholism, HE contends, is not a problem, but merely a symptom of something else.   I pity this man.  I resent his cowardice.

OK, he’s the exception.

That means those applicable human satellites that  I keep revolving around me are themselves, ever evolving.  They’re not who they were 20-years ago;  not even who they were a year ago and certainly not who’ll they be in five years.  But I take some comfort in knowing that my evolution as a human, also includes theirs. We’re all changing and the process is continual. So yes, I know them as the people they are today, but it’s also my job as a friend, a sister,  a daughter and a future girlfriend, to maintain a relationship with the people they will become.  

You see, what I now know on this day that I didn’t know before is that real love– authentic love– is essentially born and given life and sustained when we make the conscious decision to feed and nurture it with passion.   That’s key, people.    It’s knowing how to be loved is one thing and knowing how to love is another. Passion helps make the distinction. Our souls are nourished when our friends, family and partners realize we know how to love them. Well, from this point on, my soul will then get a much-needed B-12 shot because I intend to start asking more questions and then, I’ll listen to what’s being said. I want to see who my friends and family really are. And I want to understand how they feel from all angles; from their perspective. I want to see my world through their eyes.

Fore the first time in my life, I want to create incredibly tender moments that tell these wonderful people I love them by knowing exactly what “I love you” looks like to them. 

So, here’s to humanity. 

Here’s to the prompt return of joy.  

And here’s to necessary reflection.   

And here’s to revisiting all the ugly negatives that have occurred in my life and being thankful for them.  They were all amazing life lessons.  Every mistake was right;  every errant action was perfect. 

And what about regrets?  Sure,  I have a few.   I’ve been alive for all these years, haven’t I?   One of my biggest is that  I didn’t learn sooner that life doesn’t work on a merit system or on demerits either.  Shit happens…luck of the draw and all.  Life, mercifully, isn’t static.  The bad gets better and the good always run its course eventually.  But that doesn’t mean its cyclical–not necessarily.  Good doesn’t always follow bad and vice versa.   Some people never escape the shit storm–it’s just one squall after the other and they’ve never been able to find an umbrella or find suitable galoshes.  It gets all over them and everything else in their life and it festers.  They have to learn as I did that sometimes, deflection of all the negative comes in the form of taking responsibility and admitting  you’re getting crapped on because you’ve been allowing yourself to get crapped on.  

We give ourselves permission to hurt; to be hurt and to wallow or fight.  We choose how we react to everything.

Admitting you’ve been wrong isn’t any easier and taking that first step to physically walk away from any situation is tough too, but not as tough as making the decision to leave.   I’m talking about that painful period when we weigh the options and vacillate: do I stay or do I go and if I go, where am I going and if I stay, how will I make any forward momentum?     What will make me happiest???

Tough question and rarely easy or black and white.

That’s when we make those crazy Faustian deals with God….or the Devil because the responsibility is much too much, or so we think.  Ultimately, we’re in control more than we know.  To think otherwise is shifting responsibility, but I suppose whatever belief system makes you comfortable and that’s something you’ll need when confronting the reality that the actual state of walking out the door is often easier than making the decision to do so.   But we all know that doing the right thing, whether that entails staying or going, is often just a difficult.

Another regret is that I’ve not liked or respected myself enough.  I’ve not fought enough for Laurie.  I let her get hurt many times over by liars and thieves, and sometimes those culprits came in the form or low self-esteem and a lack of self-respect.  I’ve been guilty by virtue of withholding and reckless endangerment.   I’m sorry for every one of those infractions, but  I’m rectifying that–even as I type.

So that being said, the retooled “I Love Lucy” heart logo placed at the beginning of this post means even more to me now.  And  I’m going to demand that I try to live with the mindset that even at this relatively late stage of the fame, good things can still happen.  I need to tell myself that I’m optimistic and hopeful–within reason— and I  really and truly want to believe there’s still much to believe in.    

Maybe that’s why I’ve been going through that vast record collection I call “my life” and when I picked up that huge, well-worn LP with its 51 tracks now delicately etched into the vinyl disc and I studied it long and hard. 

Much to my surprise,  I still have a B-side.

.

.

Onward….

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Advice from Uncle Bob

.

Dear Laurie,

I know you have a pivotal birthday coming up and while presents are wonderful and I have no problem in obtaining one for you, I thought this 50th birthday of yours deserved to be a little special, so my gift this auspicious year will be different.

I’ll preface this letter by telling you that I think I’ve only recently learned that life is about risk, taking chances and at least, occaisionally glimpsing over that scary proverbial edge.  As you know, I just turned 74 in January and I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I’ve spent my life in a safe  vacuum, unwilling to do anything that might affect my health, well being and longevity. 

But all I did was compromise my happiness.  

I reflect back on my life, as I’m sure your doing, and I didn’t think I had any significant regrets, but I do.    Your Aunt Stella and I were too frightened, for reasons that I can’t even fathom now.  We read every self help book; believed every news report about the evils of eggs, saccharin, beef, red M&M’s, alcohol consumption and smoking.

What predicated this letter to you?  Realization mostly, inspired by a recent visit to a new doctor.    

After the first check up when the test results came back, he called me back into his office.  I asked him how I was doing medically.  He told that I was fine “for a man of my age”.  As the family knows,  I’ve tried to live the healthiest life possible, but even so, his response alarmed me.  

So, I asked him, “I’m not sure what that means. I consider myself to be a very careful, very healthy 74 year old guy. I’ve tried to live by the book, so what do you think, Doc?   Will I live to the age of 80 and beyond, maybe?”

The doctor just looked at me and cocked his head.  “Well, answer a few questions for me.  Do you drink alcohol of any kind to any degree?   What about drugs?  Do you eat red meat, Bar-B-Q beef and pork with all the trimmings and endure periods of stress and insomnia?”

“I do none of those things.   I sleep fairly well, too!”

He squinted his eyes.  “Do you work out?  Race cars?    Do you gamble, bowl, watch sports, play pool, have evenings out with the guys?”   

“Oh no, no!  I exercise in moderation only.  I don’t want to risk injury. Gambling is a vice I want to live without, thank you and sports is nothing but relatively civilized savagery”.

He asked, “No lifting weights, crunches?”  

“Never.  Plus I rarely socialize.  My wife is my best friend.  It’s pretty much just her and I.  We watch educational TV and documentaries and we ONLY listen to classical music and the occasional opera.  Candide and La Boheme are my favorites.  And I’d never risk life and live by driving fast.  In fact, obey all speed limits.  I’m proud to admit that I drive conservatively in my American-made sedans.  Had them all my life.”

He continued on with this questioning.  “Do you like being in the sun, sailing, playing golf, swim, tennis, jogging, cycling or hiking?  What about yard work?

“I do none of those things. I’m extremely fastidious.  I hate getting dirty.   As I’ve told you, I live life very safely.  I don’t tempt fate.   Unprotected exposure to natural sunlight  is a carcinogen!”

He then asked, “What about sex, in your marriage bed or extramaritally?”

“Oh no!” I answered him.   My wife and I care for each other, but we agreed to stop having sex 17 years ago.  We figured our bodies didn’t need the over exertion.   We’re celibate and we couldn’t be closer!  Nor would I or could I ever even contemplate an affair with some tarted up floozie.  I believe in the sanctity of marriage and celibacy only adds to the quality of ours!”

He looked puzzled and removed his glasses.  “Really?  All you’ve told me is  true?”

I proudly responded “Yes!!.   So lastly,  do you think I’m going to live long enough to reach 80?”

He shook his head.   “With the way you’ve lived your life, why would you even give a shit?”

Needless to say, that gave me pause.    

I started thinking about what he said and frankly, that’s convinced me that I’ve probably never actually lived my life.  I merely existed in it.  I merely experienced whatever came my way.  I never sought anything.   Life happened and fear of something I’m not even sure of forced me to live under a rock and, I suppose, a bunch of lies.   Namely those which I told myself. 

I don’t want you to wake up 30-years from now and wonder if you’ve done enough, read enough, loved enough, been loved enough, helped others enough and laughed enough.   I don’t want you to die without ever having seen Barcelona or the Turks and Caicos islands.   I want you live your life and take chances.   It’s completely worth the risk.  Live your life in Technicolor, Laurie.   It’s like that damn candy commercial, Laurie:  that one that urges young consumers to feel the rainbow.

You’ve got a lot of life ahead of you.  In many ways, the best part of your life has yet to unfold.   Grab it and go.  Anticipate all the wonders that are being laid out before you.   In many ways, turning 50 is a gift.  It really is.   Maybe you don’t regard it as such now, but you will in time. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must end this tome and make plans for this evening.   I’m taking your aunt Stella out for a romantic dinner and dancing.   I’m thinking steaks and a terrific Pignot… maybe a bottle or two.   Then, I’m calling the municipal airport to inquire about skydiving lessons for this Saturday and if I can secure a lesson at that time, I plan on driving above the speed limit to get there faster, while listening to rock music on the radio and eating peanut M&M’s.    

I hope they melt in my hand.   

Regrets, Laurie;  they’ll age you before your years.  So, carpe anos, Darlin’!! And have fun on your birthday.  Hope it’s a great one!

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Always, 
Uncle Bob

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