chelsea cookI know you have heard it said that age is not a number but a set of mind. There are many people who have gained several decades of living but are “younger” than most of the rest of society. My late friend Tuskahoma Brown Miller was one of those people. As a middle school principal he could not afford to be “old” but he was certainly mature enough to keep check on all his students. Then he worked with that same age and high school age in a Boy Scout troop. He was younger than most of his former students and scouts. Yes, it bothers me to see a middle age person who has given up on living and is just coasting along until the permanent retirement.
While it is very true that our bodies age our mind doesn’t have to. Recently, I was speaking to a customer while I was shelving the books. He appeared to be my age and possibly some younger. As we talked about various book genres he said he enjoyed, for the second or third time we have talked, he made no choice. He did have a book in his hand that would interest someone who is thinking more of dying than of living. And no(!), I shall not tell you the title as you may rush out and buy it and then I wouldn’t have anyone to write for.
I am oft times close to amazement to find really old people who have just passed middle age. HEY! Wake up! It is “middle age” not the end of the line. Until Alzheimer's disease struck him down, my father was very active. He was “on-the-go” almost constantly and couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to go somewhere again. When a minister of a church of his denomination moved on, Pa would fill in until a new one was appointed. Sometimes he would drive very long distances two or three times a week. As he could carry on a conversation with anyone who didn’t move fast enough, he got to know and interact with a great many people. He preached his last sermon three or four days before he went into the nursing home. Even in the nursing home he tried to minister to people. If you are physically healthy, there are very few reasons to sit and rust.
I have another friend who is 81 going on 25. She leads an exercise class and does all the moves and hops and skips and jumps that all those youngsters of 55 will do - or attempt to do. She has more energy than most people thirty years younger and acts as though she could still do a half marathon after class. She refuses to allow advanced age limit her enjoyment of teaching people to take care of their main asset: their health. If I ever get old, I want to be just like her, only without so much jumping and skipping. This is not her only activity as she is involved in several other things.
What got all this started was a picture. Herself took a picture of me the first day I dressed in my Airport Ambassador’s uniform. Somehow I never saw the picture as pictures of me are not that important. A few days ago I happened to see it on her phone. Holy Cow! I looked old. Considering we live in a youth obsessed culture, it is a wonder any traveler would ask me for information. They would probably tell their friends,” I asked this really old man a question and he had to look at a chart to show me. He probably couldn’t remember.” Wellsir, that is possibly correct as there is so much construction going on at the airport information changes almost daily. But I still look old so, the thinking goes, I probably don't know the answer to hard questions.
Unless someone is keeping a secret, the pundits are correct that we get only one chance in this life. It is my belief that one should do all one can do to enjoy this time and to enjoy as much of it as one can stretch out. If you had ordered a beautiful Iowa prime rib dinner (and there is hardly anything better no matter what the Yankees in NYC say), you would not want someone to come by your table about half way through and say, “That’s enough. You don’t get any more,” and take it away. That to me is what it is like to watch people not live up to their potential. I am not a health expert but I believe the human body is like a piece of delicate machinery, you either use it or lose it.  So, get busy living!