“When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you’re older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.” Casey Stengel
Fifty years ago today after putting my mother through an entirely brutal day long labor event little Padre Steve entered the world a mould was broken and a journey started. I have to admit that fifty years is a long time, crap it’s half a century and I am now older than the average life span of men in Cameroon and 18 other countries which means that it probably sucks to be them….if I lived in one of those countries I could say what Casey Stengel said “most of the people my age are dead. You could look it up….” At the same time I’ve still got 25 1/2 years to reach the average life span in the United States. If this was a baseball game I’d be finishing the bottom of the 6th inning. The United States ranks 38th in the world on the average life expectancy of a man behind such countries as Cuba of which almost all have universal health care or socialized medicine. I mean what’s up with that? If I was French, Canadian, German, English or one of these other countries I would have a longer life expectancy? Hmmm…I do read speak and write German and my friend Gottfried keeps asking us to move there when I retire from the Navy.
One good thing is that I neither look nor act my age. When I was in Iraq my assistant RP2 Nelson Lebron and I were having lunch at the chow hall in Fallujah as we travelled out west at the beginning of our deployment with five other RPs as well as a number of Marines and Corpsmen. He decided to ask them how old they thought that I was. At the time I was a mere 47. The young folks at the table guessed anywhere from 32 to 42. I thought that was rather cool. I used to enjoy getting “carded” at the grocery store when buying beer but now since many places say that they card anyone who appears to be under 40 the thrill of that is gone.
Even so it is cool to have people think that I am younger than I am, I remember once when one of my nephews asked my younger brother if he was older than me. Jeff did not see the humor in this but I admit he does act more mature than me….he grew up and I didn’t, but when he was a kid dad said that he was 8 going on 40. He was appalled when the Abbess and I went out on toilet paper raids. I guess someone has to be the adult….better him than me, he has kids, and I don’t. It’s like Satchel Paige said “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” And since I don’t mind, it don’t matter.
Besides looking good for my age my health has returned and I am feeling much better, physically, emotionally and spiritually than I did at 48 or 49 when I was dealing with PTSD, chronic pain and a spiritual crisis. I had a check up and the doctor was blown away by my lab numbers and vitals. He said I was in better health than most people that he sees the vast majority of who are a lot younger than me. The same was true when I was serving at Navy EOD. I guess that “50” is the new “30” after all, at least for me. I took one of those “Real Age” tests a while back and it put me in my early 30s. While I cannot and will not predict the future if all goes well I should be around many years and be pretty healthy doing it. Heck my paternal grandmother was riding Greyhound buses across country and traveling well into her 80s. I guess that I have pretty good genetic stock. Of course since there is a whole lot that I have no control I am very careful not to prognosticate about how long I might live, as Casey Stengel said “I don’t make predictions, especially about the future” after all the future ain’t what it used to be.”
Now in 50 years I have seen and done a lot and spent my birthday in some unusual places and sometimes in places where it went unrecognized. Not that this is an issue for me as I normally shy away from such attention because I didn’t do anything to earn it. Now I do appreciate people thinking of me and wishing me well. Yesterday our enlisted staff in the Pastoral Care office brought me in a cake and a card signed by all the staff. It was really touching, the black icing on the cake was appropriate. I love working with this young men and women, they are great. I have celebrated this auspicious occasion here in the states but also in places like Jordan, Germany and South Korea. South Korea was cool because some of the South Korean Chaplains took me out for dinner at a pizza parlor. I have also celebrated it at sea off the coast of the Horn of Africa.
I think that life should be enjoyed to the fullest. I personally do not know how some people who have a choice chose not to enjoy life and I’m like talking about people with more talent, ability, money and looks than I will ever have, but they are miserable and they quite literally hate life, not only theirs but despise almost everything about the world that they live in. Others allow themselves to be consumed by causes and events that they have no control of whatsoever. Quite often these folks are the same folks who hate life in general but not always.
Now as anyone who knows me well can attest I am not one who has any illusions about how difficult life can be, how things can get all messed up and that life can be painful and sometimes tragic. I understand this because I have gone through some pretty sucky times. Thus I know for a fact that “there comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.”
I think that in order to live life to the fullest that people need to take what is serious seriously and ease up on most other stuff. I know that I have only a certain amount of emotional energy and I finally figured out that I don’t need to expend it on things that I can’t control. I am finally learning that in order to be at peace you cannot constantly be at war or looking for one. Are some things worth fighting for? Certainly, but not every battle is mine to fight.
I think a lot of what has helped me is that I am pretty happy with the person that I am and instead of looking to change things about me I just want to do what I do better within my limitations and neither be deluded into believing my own press or that of others about me or to be discouraged by failure or blame. Satchel Paige said it well “Not to be cheered by praise, not to be grieved by blame, but to know thoroughly one’s own virtues or powers are the characteristics of an excellent man.”
So 50 years, it has been a long time but I feel good about my past and the future. I am fortunate to have many friends including some that actually like me. I have been blessed in a lot of ways, sometimes I understand what Lou Gehrig meant when he said “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” I am both lucky and blessed. I have a wonderful wife, family, friends, education and experiences that I could not have imagined having when I turned 18. I have been able to travel about the world see and appreciate people from a multitude of countries, cultures and religions. I have had the privilege of serving my country in peace and war, and to be a Priest. Despite all the problems we are having I live in a wonderful country and I have what I need. I am blessed beyond belief.
The past couple of days I have received the well wishes of more friends than I can count. Last night I was able to see a Norfolk Admirals hockey game and will be going out with Judy tonight and then to top off the day FEDEX dropped off my season tickets for the Norfolk Tides. Thus I just want to thank everyone who made this day necessary.
Peace my friends especially to my classmates from Edison High School 1978 who like me are all turning 50 soon or already have.