As I approach my seventieth birthday, I find myself reflecting upon the things that I always took for granted that have now become so much more important in my life. And they are very different from what they were just five or ten years ago. For starters, there’s my health—or what’s left of it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. My blood pressure is steady at around 120 over 75 (with medication, of course; that regimen began about fifteen years ago). Pulse? Around 64 (unless I try to jog a block or two, then all bets are off). Weight? Don’t ask! There’s a little bit of double vision—a reminder of two detached retina surgeries—but I’m still 20/20 with my glasses on (which is every minute of every day). The peripheral neuropathy in my feet—gifted to me on my sixty fifth birthday—causes me to stumble occasionally when I’m fly fishing, but at least I can still fly fish. So maybe the health’s not so good, but at least I have it.
That brings me to friends. When we’re young, we think we’ll never run out of friends. But as we age, that begins to change. We grow closer to some—and farther away from others. Our circles tighten. Over the last five or ten years, I have lost so many friends that I’ve begun to lose count. Some have been claimed by the Grim Reaper, but others have simply faded away. They’ve moved to be closer to their extended families. Gradually, the emails become fewer, the phone calls more awkward and forced, and before long they’re simply gone. I always knew it happened to others; I just didn’t know it would happen to me.
But I’ve made new friends—different kinds of friends. Not long after the neuropathy struck, I joined a gym (we have a little clique). Sure, we do a lot more talking than exercising, but the results are just as impressive. It’s our mental health we’re maintaining now, and, Lord knows there’s nothing better than camaraderie for keeping the spirits up. Instead of bragging about our golf or tennis game, we compare pictures of our grandkids—or exchange recipes. The men tell lies about their college days and their athletic accomplishments; the women exaggerate about those of their grandchildren. But it’s all good.
Material possessions are becoming—in the words of most of my friends—“a real pain in the ass.” I find myself wondering who’ll get stuck throwing out all the “stuff” I’ve collected, after I’m gone. We treasure old pickup trucks, or a lawnmower we’ve had since “I can’t remember when.” Instead of buying new golf clubs, or a new fishing rod, we purchase fancy cooking implements—or a Dremel tool. And nothing is ever discarded. Amateur hoarders: that’s what we are—at least it seems that way.
But the most important thing in my life now is my family. My wife and I have been married for nearly thirty four years, and I wouldn’t change a thing. We have a granddaughter, and we check our emails and text messages every day for a new picture of our little treasurer. We count the days till the next visit. I talk to my brother more often, and my wife to her sister, and we really listen to what they have to say. There’s a comfort in just knowing that the other is there—somewhere within reach of a phone call, or an email. My wife and I actually eat lunch together. We watch Wheel of Fortune, as we enjoy our dinner at the island in the kitchen. We play card games—and watch a lot of movies, side-by-side on our double recliner. Yes, the landscape is definitely changing. But we’re lucky. The view is magnificent. We have a front row seat in a world that is as wonderful as we choose it to be.
Take it from me: live every day to the fullest. Treasure the small things in life: the changing weather, the flowers, the emails, the pictures, and most of all your family. Call them. Tell them you love them. In the end, it’s the little things that count the most in life. They’re what make it worth living.