Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Little Older, Not Much Wiser...

I was 64 yesterday. One year from retirement. One year from never having my hair colored again. (Is it white beneath all these years of strawberry blonde?) One year from having to plan vacations (if I can ever afford another vacation after retirement) and doctor's appointments and family visits around a work schedule. One year from waking up every morning knowing the day is mine to do with as I please.

When I look back on the person I was when I was in my 20's and 30's and 40's and 50's, I look different, of course, but I don't think I've changed that much inwardly. I still love all the same things I loved back then but I've added a few. Maybe I don't hate as many things.

My heart still thrills to the screaming guitars and pounding drums of rough and rowdy rock and roll. I still love the throaty roar of a Harley starting. But now I think the most exciting sound in the world is 43 NASCAR Cup cars firing their engines.

I'm still attracted to men who have a touch of outlaw in them. Oddly enough, working for the Sheriff's Department, I discovered that the cops are closer to the outlaws than they are to every day citizens. Maybe it's because they both tolerate living on the edge although they may be on opposite sides of the cultural divide.

So, to the sex appeal of men in uniforms and holding guitars, add drivers dressed in logo-covered firesuits.

I still love hot fudge sundaes and daffodils and ocean waves. I still have a soft spot for teenage boys and Vietnam veterans. I still prefer German Shepherds and Camaros and Glocks. I am fascinated watching buzzards soar in the sky and pelicans dive-bombing the sea. I love wolves and wild horses. I hope we never succeed in driving them to extinction but considering the greed of humans, it's probably only a matter of time.

Politically, I still lean toward the liberal. I think homosexuality is fine and people should be accepted for whatever they are. Some of my best friends are gay; some of our best soldiers are gay. I still believe what a woman does with her body is her business and no one else's. Oh, you're morally opposed to abortion and shouldn't have to help pay for it? Well, big whoop, I'm morally opposed to lots of things I have to help pay for, including unjustified wars and torture.

Spiritually, I'm as much of a doubter as ever. I don't know what the truth is and I don't think you do either. If you've found a faith that gives you comfort, I'd never try to talk you out of it. But I'd appreciate the same consideration. Don't try to talk me into it either.

I still love to investigate new places. Never understood those vacationers who made a beeline for the exact same place every year when the U.S. (and the world, for that matter) is so diverse and has such magnificence to offer. I prefer to do it in a car because the road trip with the sights, the sounds, the smells, the motels, the regional food are part of the fun. I've never overcome my fear of flying (though a Xanax before boarding helps a lot).

Ireland is still my favorite foreign country. Chocolate is still my favorite ice cream. Reading is still my favorite extracurricular activity. I still wish I could live on a farm although, practically, I know it's too late for that. I hire help to weed my flower beds, for heaven's sake, so how would I take care of a farm? Nevertheless, I will continue to adore chickens and wish I had a few hens and a macho rooster in my back yard.

I'm still pretty laid back about sex but I think if people are going to have children they should get married. If you don't like someone enough to form a family with at least the anticipation of staying together (even if it doesn't work out later), then you don't like them well enough to make them the parent of your child.

I think if we want to improve our schools all we have to do is look back to the way we educated students for 200 years. My mother got a great education in a railroad car in Arizona where her parents homesteaded a ranch. All aged kids together, white and Hispanic helping each other learn their languages. I got a great education at various schools across the country. I have a Indiana fourth grade textbook. Difficult spelling words, history, memorization assignments, math, a government section. Today's students would be aghast at how hard it was. I returned to my old high school as the principal's secretary 20 years later to find the inmates had taken over the asylum. I discovered that the Moms who lied about their kids being sick in bed when they'd just been seen at McDonald instead of at school were the same ones who alibied their children years later when I worked at the Sheriff's Department.

So, I'm 64 now and still muddling through life as best I can.


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