Friday, September 19, 2008

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Old?

I was awkwardly negotiating my teen years when I was asked “What do you want to be?” I answered, “I want to be fifty years old.” That puzzling response was clear enough to me. I wanted to skip past all the tough stuff of life and arrive at an age where everything was settled. What was I thinking?

I have skipped to age 66 and I am feeling as superfluous as US Route 66. Unable to recapture my thirties, forties or fifties, it is once again time to ask “What do you want to do when you grow up, or at least grow older?” My genetics suggest that if I live as long as my father who in April 2008 passed away at age 93, I have another 27 years – good grief! But I didn’t observe my father using all those additional retirement years to build his resume or his record of accomplishments and achievements. I haven’t been convinced that anything meaningful is ahead. Perhaps it’s my first-born, A-type nature to even look for that. Or, perhaps it’s just that I am feeling sorry for myself. No, it’s neither option. It’s simply that I have to recognize a new opportunity that involves new freedoms, new challenges and new objectives and a lot of years to realize them.

I was learning this as I reflected on the Vancouver Sun story about Kurt Drocholl who last Monday tried a solo climb of Mount Baker’s summit. His right ankle gave out and he slipped into a crevasse on the Coleman Glacier. Injured, he might have died in the cold if not for Dallas Stobbe, an experienced mountaineer who heard his call and climbed into the crevasse and fashioned a pulley system to lift Drocholl to safety. Drocholl is planning another attempt to the summit and he is 72 years old.
Kurt has six years on me and he doesn’t quit. I won’t either. I have my health and my abilities and my ambitions and a wife who loves me and an insatiable appetite to try things and achieve things. But then I have another thought. For forty years Christine has encouraged me to fulfill my calling and dreams. I owe her a lot. The next twenty years are not all about me and if she wants to do something outrageous I will tell her, “go for it and I am with you all the way.” So, in April 2009 we will live in France for two months because that is where her heart has always longed to be. Her paternal French ancestry originated on the island of Guernsey between France and England.

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