Looking Back At A Life Well Lived
Wednesday - January 19, 2011
I’m 75 years old this Wednesday. And, yes, that photo at the top of my column is current.
Some countries won’t rent me car now. Some companies will refuse me medical evacuation insurance when I travel abroad.
I’m over the hill!
I wasn’t always sure I’d live to see this birthday. I’ve been a pilot, a scuba diver who did black coral dips to 200-plus feet, jumpmaster-qualified sky-diver and I covered the Vietnam and Biafra (Nigeria) wars.
I’ve broken bones sky-diving and para-sailing, and got a lot of shrapnel in my head, hand, back and leg in the Cu Chi woods of Vietnam. Smashed myself up in a fall on Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France.
Had quintuple cardiovascular bypasses 23 years ago. Dr. Michael Dang’s grafts are still holding, miraculously, since I’m not known for a diet of vegetables, lots of exercise and no booze. I’ve eaten lardo in Italy and bull penis and camel hump in Inner Mongolia.
I was very disappointed that I failed to make the cut to be the Journalist in Space from among 1,033 applicants in 1986. Walter Cronkite was chosen, but the flight was cancelled after the Teacher in Space rocket blew up.
Journalism might have helped keep me alive by keeping me happy. Didn’t make much money but got to see everything and every place. I’m married to an easy-going woman and we raised a daughter who’s a foreign service officer headed to Afghanistan. I want to live to see some smart president appoint her secretary of state.
My runabout transport is a moped. That keeps my brain and reflexes very alert.
I think stress kills people. Stress and hate and bad family lives. Thinking young may extend your lifeline. I know people in their 50s who act as if they are in their 80s - grim and grumpy.
I don’t believe ingesting pureed asparagus or vinegar will keep you alive longer. There’s no evidence that acai or kava or garlic will make you live longer or avoid a deathly illness.
Age does bring on stiff muscles and achy bones, and mental degeneration is always lurking out there, waiting to strike.
But you also can gain wisdom. You wonder why you were so ignorant earlier. You wonder why young people get so uptight about things you know will be solved with just a little time to simmer.
Alas, not all people gain wisdom as they get old. Some merely let their early prejudices and small knowledge base solidify. They keep grumbling until death that there’s some kind of communist, socialist or fascist conspiracy to enslave America.
Sheesh! No wonder some get ulcers.
Coming next week: My picks for the Oscars.
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