This month (May 2021), both Joyce and I turned 75. May 18 for Joyce, and May 27 for me. Three quarters of a century! It’s a milestone for sure.
When I was younger, 75 years old seemed ancient. The house-mother in Joyce’s dormitory at Hartwick College, when we were 18 years old, seemed ancient. And she might have been a bit younger than us right now. One of her jobs was to vigilantly watch the young couples returning from their dates by the 10pm curfew, to make sure all was appropriate in the little lobby, and nothing more than kissing was happening. It was under her watchful eyes that Joyce and I had our first kiss, a kiss that truly blew our minds.
They say you are only as old as you think. In some ways, Joyce and I are still those 18-year-old children, discovering new ways to love, learning the lessons this world will teach us. If we remain open to learning and discovering, we remain youthful. And yes, the reverse is also true. We become old when we stop wondering at the world, or learning new things.
Last week, as part of our birthday gift to ourselves, we were in Yosemite National Park, truly one of the most beautiful places on this earth. We biked throughout the valley, stopping to take in the sheer rock walls, the waterfalls in their spring fullness, the dogwoods in full bloom, all the majestic trees, my favorite the majestic Yellow Pines (Ponderosa Pines), over two hundred feet high. We explored the banks and beaches of the Merced River and Tenaya Creek, finding our own little power spots to rest, or dip for a moment in the frigid water. As long as we touched upon that magic state of wonder, we remained young. It’s a moment-by-moment decision. You can choose at any time to enter the state of wonder, and that is a youthful moment.
I will not deny my vulnerability about aging. Sometimes I feel truly scared at what these next few decades may bring, and what I will physically or mentally lose. Year by year, I have watched my body slowly lose abilities. I can no longer run. Softball, a real passion of mine, is a thing of the past. I can’t carry heavy loads anymore. At the local hardware store, I need to ask someone to help lift the bags of cement into my truck. But hey, asking for help is a much-needed skill at any age.
Many of you know about my passion for the out-of-doors, especially river trips and backpacking. I realize that my fear of the window closing on these kinds of activities sometimes has me scrambling to do as much of these things as I can, before I am forced to let go of them. Joyce loves nature just as much as I do. It’s just that she is more at peace staying home on our beautiful property. But she gives me her blessing to go off a couple of extra times a year on my solo adventures.
Then there’s our two grandsons, ten-year-old Skye and four-year-old Owen. I have had to accept my physical limitations more and more. I’ve gone from actor to director; from rolling around with them on the living room floor, to sitting on the couch challenging them with new games or routines. I not only come away with less bruises, but it is still a lot of fun. Everyone has a great time, even with Grandpa on the couch.
I love tennis, but have had to quit playing with my more competitive (and younger) friends. Now I can still enjoy tennis, but it’s a special kind of tennis, with my friend, Charlie Bloom. We call it “Old Farts Tennis.” We have strict rules. First, there is no keeping score, except we often call out our favorite score, “love-love.” Then, the object of the game is to enjoy hitting the ball, no matter where it ends up going. If we hit the ball back to each other, great! If the ball is not hit right to us, and we have to move fast to get to the ball, we get cheered by the other for letting the ball fly by, rather than make some heroic effort which may end up getting us hurt. And if one of us makes an amazing play, like a really great serve or return, everything stops for a proper celebration! It’s another “wonder” moment.
Not long ago, I asked myself what I most wanted in this life. The answer came in the form of a song, which someday I hope to record for you all. Here are the words:
“I only want to love, and feel my open heart.
Of all the things I do, this is the highest art.
There’s always more to do.
The world won’t stop for me.
But I can stop and feel what I most want.
I only want to love, and see beauty everywhere.
The joy it gives to me is far beyond compare.
I want to see the light
That dances in your eyes.
I want to hear the song of your heart.”
This is all I want, just to love. It’s what makes me happiest. Loving my beloved Joyce makes my heart sing. Loving our children and grandchildren fills me up. Loving the divine helpers, the angels and great ones, fills me with gratitude. Then there’s the retreats we lead, even on Zoom throughout the pandemic. I long for those magic moments, often introduced by someone’s vulnerability, and the whole group feels that welling up of goodness, where breathing is a pleasure, and love becomes a tangible thing, a noun and a verb, a feeling and a doing, two things joined together in one.
And then I know, I can love for all the days of my life!