Thoughts at 83.
Pre-Note: Molly can always be counted on for relevant poetry. Here are a few for Spring: Spring poems from Molly. Some comments from Molly at end of this post.
Today is my 83rd birthday. It’s not one of those events that’s a show-stopper, like 21, or 30 or 50, but so it is.
Actually, it’s the 1st day of my 84th year (our first birthday is day 365 after birth).
Best I know at this moment, it will be just a normal day: to coffee; my walk; a birthday lunch; a meeting tonight. Except for the word “birthday”, a pretty usual day, as I prefer.
Grandson Parker is 21 today. He’s finishing his junior year, engineering, at university. Three years ago, June 7, 2020, when Covid-19 was raging, he and his colleague high schoolers had a most unconventional end to their most unconventional senior year. We were there for the commencement, such as it was.
Life goes on, with all its unusual twists and turns, as we all know. I’m going to try to keep track of today and tomorrows news: my own time capsule of where we’re at as a country and world. I’ll summarize in a post perhaps on Saturday.
The calculator says I’ve been wandering around earth for over 30,000 days – plenty of time for all variety of events, minuses, pluses, mistakes, small success’s, failures, on and on. A life like most all of ours.
The birthday photo I choose is not especially attractive. It was taken a week or so ago by long-time friend Larry in Fargo ND. You can only do so much with your subject!
Just for the record, when that photo was taken, I was 48 hours and 700 miles into about 1,000 miles of driving to places familiar in the Red River Valley. I wasn’t out to impress anybody – certainly not myself. I remember 1992, when my Dad, then 84, decided to make a similar solo trip to Fargo for the ordination of his god-son…and was irritated at me for not trusting that he could make the trip (which was by bus from St. Louis area).
Dad did just fine. But, now at his age, then, I acknowledge we olders have to learn to act our age. There’s a great deal I can still do: long trips are best left to others.
Among the memories processed in the 48 hours preceding the photo, was a brief visit to Hallock Minnesota, where I began my years in public education 60 years ago this year. I was just out of the Army, and two years removed from college, and it was the beginning of two of the most difficult years of my entire life since. We lived in the upstairs of the house in the photo – Casper and Inga Mattson’s – for only a few months.
President Kennedy was assassinated that year, Nov. 22, 1963; the Beatle’s made their debut in America on the radio and then the Ed Sullivan Show; the house was son Tom’s first home, briefly. There are memories never to be forgotten. It was a formative time – unplanned and unexpected. Anyone who knows me knows the elements of the story.
I suppose it is human nature to review our own travels in life – the road ahead is never as certain as we imagined it might be.
I wonder how Parker, at 21, sees his future. No doubt, it will ‘bob and weave’ in ways he can’t imagine, today.
For me, I divide the memories of my time on earth so far, thusly: My 20s and 30s were filled with lessons of learning how life can be; 40s and 50s, most of my work years, had their challenges, but also their satisfactions. 60s and 70s I was retired, and learned that indeed there is life after retirement.
Sometime back I made a list of the people who “coached” me in my retirement activities. They were mostly, though not all, in their 70s and 80s when I met and worked with them, and half of them – there were about two dozen in all – are deceased. These post retirement mentors were marvelous. My own models and experiences and yours differ. But we all have them.
My 80s are evolving. Basically my circle is older people. Those of us who have made it this far have a bucket full of relevant experience, noticeable and even useful if recognized.
As I write I think of the most memorable moment of this past year for me.
Last summer, I was in Bismarck ND, and had an opportunity to visit the bowels of the archaeology archives at the state historical society with the manager of the very impressive facility. The Manager, a very knowledgeable PhD, was showing me some ancient artifacts of native history of ancient North Dakota – things like shards of pottery, etc. Clues of long past human endeavor.
As we were ending our visit I said to him: “tomorrow, our conversation today will be history”. I could see by his expression that I’d hit on something he hadn’t thought a lot about. Yesterday is as much history as was 10,000 years ago – we just don’t see it that way.
When I publish this post, it will be history. Take some time to think about your yesterdays and tomorrows, too.
Birthday suggestions, if you wish:
Recommendation of a free movie, on-line: Beyond the Divide. Set in Missoula MT, it is an inspirational documentary about bridging differences of opinion. It is a few years old, but more pertinent than ever in our fractured society.
I am enthusiastic about the value of and need for Forgiveness. Check here for access to more information.
If you’re looking for inspiration about whether or not you can make a difference, watch The World Is My Country.
The pastor of my Church, Basilica of St. Mary, is offering a 13-session on “Catholic social teaching”. Details are here. By no means is everyone Catholic, nor do all Catholics agree amongst themselves on this or that part of the teaching, but the program is of sufficient interest that I plan to watch all the sessions of about 30 minutes each. At least, check it out.
Finally, last Sunday, Fr. Joe Gillespie, Senior Associate at Basilica and a gifted homilist, wrote an especially powerful and thought-provoking column for the parish newsletter: “Fr Joe Gillespie Human Mind and Parachute” is the link to the two pages, if you are interested.
The final note, from Molly, sent to her list, of which I’m privileged to be part (her poetry selections lead this post). I think she’s about my age:
Oh, to other stuff re bird migration–warblers are coming in now, as are some of the later sparrows…and, I’ve still been seeing vultures & eagles heading north.
A very Happy Birthday to you. Have a great year ahead!
Happy Birthday Dick!
And many more….
Bonne Anniversaire Richard. Keep on learning and traveling. I enjoyed reading about the Red River, ND, and did not know it flowed North into Canada (one of only several in the US with a northward flow). I am sure it is a beautiful river – one some of our Ancestors took finding their new homes. Enjoy your day!
I didn’t know you lived in Hallock. Did you know Dr. Andy Reilly, a dentist in Hallock and Stephen?
You were a Red River Valleyite like me.
I was born in Grand Forks and grew up in Ada, MN.
Happy birthday by the way!
Dick, you are a distinguished looking subject! Glad you were able to use the quickee photo I took and thanks for the one you took of me! We are two “post-80” models, indeed. Excellent historical report, as is your standard, always…keep in touch…LG
Happy Birthday Grandpa! Thank you for the kind words and the blog was a fantastic read, many many years to come it seems. Hope to see you soon this summer!