Reflections On Life, Love, & Loss: The Wisdom I've Earned In 70 Years
I’m turning 70 today.
Don’t send me birthday wishes. I know you wish me well.
I admit that I have a hard time seeing myself as 70. It feels like yesterday, I was 16. And it seems, in many ways, like I'm just getting started. But I know the runway is getting shorter and shorter for me.
When my time comes, I won’t be leaving any kind of greatness behind—no memorial to remember me by. It will be a quiet goodbye. But I hope I survive in the memories of my friends.
I like to play golf with strangers. The pros here hook me up with groups of three who have openings for a fourth. When they introduce me before the round, I often think, “Look at that old bast*rd.” Then, as I get to know my teammates along the course, I find out that old bast*rd is younger than I am.
Aside from the chronic aches and pains—a different one every day, it seems—I don't feel 70. My mind thinks I’m still in high school. My body protests with every step.
But, while I’m in and out of doctors offices and hospitals a lot, I'm relatively healthy. I’ve outlived many of my friends, and I don't know why. If healthy lifestyles are associated with longevity, I should’ve been dead long ago. (You don’t want to know.) But, for some reason, whoever is upstairs decided to keep me around.
I never did, and still don’t want to go to bed. There’s so much more I want to do.
And I’m very glad to be here.
I haven’t really changed much since I was a kid growing up in Westport.
I still expect the best from people. And, all too frequently, I'm still disappointed. I cherish my friends, love to play sports, and take great joy in the success of others.
Little kids—anyone’s little kids—make me smile. And I still like old people. Their wisdom and strength in facing the trials of aging impresses me to no end.
It’s true, I have my share of regrets. I’m sorry for all the precious time I wasted along the way. I’m sorry I kept some people in my life far longer than I should have. I’m sorry I was never able to sustain a decent marriage. I’m sorry I let some people disappoint me for a second time, when the first was more than enough.
I’m sorry I can’t play the piano. And I’m sorry I can’t draw a portrait—But I’m working on changing that.
This is my time to suck the marrow out of life.
I’m sorry that when my time comes, I won’t be leaving any kind of greatness behind—no great memorial to remember me by. It will be a quiet goodbye. But I do hope I survive in the memories of my friends with a little smile every now and again.
I know I probably spend too much time thinking of the people I've lost. I miss a lot of friends. I miss my parents. My aunts and uncles. I of course miss my son Evan, and I even miss my brother Nicholas. They were all important to me, and I loved them in my simplistic, self-absorbed way.
The future looms. I’m fading. I know. I can’t remember too well. Each morning I wake up and put my eyes on and my ears in. There was a time I could memorize 100 pages of 18 columns of numbers, no problem. I could once read The New York Times and, without advance notice, recite back pretty much every column of every article on every page.
At lot of phonies, con artists, and hypocrites have gone through the revolving doors of my life. Many of them were my closest friends, until circumstances or fate allowed me to see the truth of who they were.
Fortunately, many more kind, decent, gentle, human beings continue amaze me and warm my little heart—more than compensating for the baddies. They are the people whose memories I look back on and smile. They enhanced my life. They're the reason I keep believing in people.
Without them, the bad guys would’ve won.
But I’m grateful for the bad guys, too. They taught me how to spot a rotten apple quickly, so I can get out of the minefield before they can do too much damage.
I’ve watched and listened to the pontificators and lived long enough to see how wrong they often are.
I run out of energy quickly. I have about three good hours every morning. If I allowed myself, I’d fall asleep in my chair every afternoon. That said, there’s never enough time in the day for me. The days fly by, and I’m pissed when they’re over. I never did, and still don’t want to go to bed. There’s so much more I want to do.
I’m hoping my health holds out for at least another 10 years—but I might need a little help on the mental side.
I know where I’m headed.
But I’m planning on making my 70s the best years of my life. Despite my slow deterioration, I still feel very alive and engaged. I enjoy watching ‘the "young'uns" as they struggle with the same things I once struggled with. If they only knew ...
I don’t see getting old as a depressing decline of mental and physical capacities—although I guess it’s part of the deal. I see my age as having given me many gifts—perspective, freedom from nonsense of all kinds, and time to do whatever I want. I’m in no hurry. Not stressed by unnecessary drama.
This is my time to suck the marrow out of life. To relish all the great things I’ve seen, experienced, and still have—my health, my daughter, my many great friends, my home, my freedom, and so on.
So, today isn't going to be a bummer of a day for me. I’m thrilled to see what 70 has in store for me.
(And 80, for that matter, too.)