“It takes a long time to grow young.” Pablo Picasso
“I want to thank you for making this day necessary” Yogi Berra
Today is yet another anniversary of being forcibly evicted from my mother’s womb where I had taken a three week extension on my nine month lease. Ever since that time I have not acted my age….well maybe that’s not quite correct. I think it is better said that I am aware of my age and pretend to act my age when the occasion requires that I do but deep inside I am still an incorrigible adolescent. My brother who is six years my junior was 40 years old by the time that he turned eight. He was always the serious one and when Judy and I took him on a toilet paper raid during my junior year in college he was scandalized. Now that we adults he is still the serious one, I only get serious when I write about a serious subject or I’m in trouble.
Now when I was young in body as well as spirit I always was amazed and saddened to see people grow old. I don’t mean growing old in body because no one can get around that, but I mean growing old in spirit and losing their youth and joy in life. It was sad for me to see people who really were not that old dressing and acting like they were older than their years. It made me want to never grow up, I didn’t want to be that way and as the people that know me can attest I am yet to grow up. I still find the humor and irony in so many things and have to keep my humor in check sometimes in things like Board of Directors meetings and stuff like that; I do have a sense of decorum as misplaced as it often is.
I remember my paternal grandmother, “Granny” who when I was 5 years old and she was not much older than I am now was talking about how it wouldn’t be long until she was dead and gone. When she was 85 I pissed her off to ask if she was moving when she said it one too many times. I think I got a call from my mom and dad about that one because Granny really got pissed. I had an algebra teacher in junior high school named Mr. Nichley. He looked really old then and dressed it and acted it. That was in 1974. He just died a couple years back and was in his mid 80s, which meant that he was just in his 40s back then, he was a man too old before his time. I saw so many people who lived their lives in that way that I rebelled against the thought of it.
Since I was born back in 1960 I can say that I was part of the 60s and that my views on life do not always square with my rather serious friends. I really think that a lot of our political and ideological divisions in this country are because far too many people take everything too seriously. I know that we have a lot of serious issues that need serious answers but we have lost any sense of humor, levity and irony to face them well. Sometimes when I am around a lot of overly serious people I hear James Earl Jones telling Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams “Out! Back to the sixties! Back! There’s no place for you here in the future! Get back while you still can!”
We’ll I can’t go back to the 60’s but I can stay young. I have resumed collecting baseball cards, still occasionally build model ships, tanks and aircraft, and try to stay active and I hope I can get on our hospital’s baseball team, if not this year maybe next. I do not own a suit. I have a few sports jackets (why they call them that I’ll never know because I have yet to see anyone playing baseball or football in one) and a few pairs of nice pants to go with my clerical shirts but only wear them when the occasion absolutely demands. For years Judy has tried and failed to get me to dress more upscale but I’d rather wear my wide array of baseball jerseys, fleeces and warm up jackets. I try not to wear long pants after baseball season begins and until after the final game of the World Series unless absolutely necessary. I always dreamed of being in the military as a kid and I am still in the military coming up on 29 years of total service despite being about as serious as Hawkeye Pierce and studious as Von Molkte the Elder. As Will Rogers said “Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.”
Tommy Lasorda said “I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer” well I have gotten to keep my uniform on a lot longer than most of the people that I have served with and still enjoy staying in the game. Life is good even when its not.
For me learning is part of staying young, I think that when we stop learning we start dying. This means that I will probably take up another advanced academic degree, not so much to increase my job opportunities after the Navy but because it keeps me young and engaged. The other part of remaining you is to know, love and believe in what you are doing in life. In fact Will Rogers said that such was the secret of success. I think that so many people lose their joy because they have forgotten that little truth and that is another reason why we are in such a mess.
I try to stay fit and my doctors tell me that my blood pressure, cholesterol and other important measurements of health are those of people a lot younger than me. My blood pressure is consistently about 105 over 70, not bad at all.
Finally I really believe that part of staying young is to live life to the fullest because we don’t know when we will breathe our last breath. Life is too short not to live it fully and at the tender age of 51 I want to get every bit out of life that I can in all aspects of life to include my faith as Francis of Assisi said “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” After all who can stand to be around gloomy, judgmental and overly serious Christians or for that matter those kinds of people in any religion? In my chosen vocation of being a Priest and Navy Chaplain I decided to be true to who I am long ago. I won’t be something that I am not. When I was on the USS Hue City one of my sailors, Tommy Byrne nicknamed me “the Anti-Chaps” simply because I did not fit the mold of what most people expected, I think it was when I bought him and some of our shipmates a couple of pitchers of beer at a bar when on liberty.
Life is to be lived and Abe Lincoln said it so well put it “the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
I am grateful for my life and am blessed that neither Judy nor my little dog Molly look or act their ages either. I have many friends and today have been so blessed to hear from so many of them through the medium of Facebook.
I want to thank you all of my friends for being a part of my life. May you and your live long and prosper.
Peace and Blessings