Thursday, May 05, 2016

Turning 78: Old? No Way! A Great Birthday to Remember Always.

May 2. Not another birthday! 78? OMG! I'm getting ancient!

Just joking about being ancient.  I see myself as a young man in my prime. I tell people that "I have turned 50." Strictly speaking, it's not a lie, since I HAVE turned 50.

But the fact is that I am now 78. There I have said it.  I am regularly older than most of the people in the daily newspaper obits.  Actually, according to the latest federal data, the life expectancy of a white male in the United States is 78.8.

At first glance, that gives me just a few months to live, but the figure is misleading.  Age 78.8 is the life expectancy of a white male born today.  A white male today who has attained the age of 78 in good health as I have, could live many years longer. In other words, generally speaking, the older you are, the older you get.

I brag in this blog that I'm going to make it to age 120.  Wouldn't that be a blast if I actually did? Actually, it is not as unthinkable as it used to be.  I just had a thorough physical by my longtime primary care doctor. He tested everything, heart, lungs, blood, cholesterol, prostate, mobility, etc. and pronounced me in perfect all-around health.

"The complete blood count is perfect," he wrote in his report.

No sign of cancer or of anything else bad.

The only thing he found was that my vitamin D level was "slightly low." It was 26; normal is above 30.  He suggested that I take a daily dose of vitamin D3 to restore it to normal.  I take no medications now and I like that. But vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and bone metabolism so I'm considering taking a daily dose of it to raise my level to normal.  The dose is not medical but fully organic  and natural.

Much credit for my good all-around health certainly goes to the fact that I have had both knees and my left hip replaced. The knees were done separately 13 years ago. The left hip was replaced last June.

Three or four times a week, I now run around the tennis court like a crazy man (which I am of course) and almost daily walk for miles snooping around new neighborhoods. (Haven't been arrested, yet anyway.)

Luckily for me, I have one of the most remarkably skilled and successful surgeons in the U.S., Dr. Dennis Burke formally of Boston Mass General and now of  Milton's Beth Israel.  He has also become a good friend. I'll be seeing him again in June. As usual, we will spend a good bit of time laughing and joking.

Of course, when it comes to keeping me going full speed ahead, Dr. Burke is all business. He is renowned for his regular successful patient outcomes.  Dr. Burke is  an amazing surgeon and person. To read why, click here.

I also have to thank the great physical  therapists at Greendale Physical Therapy on Goldstar Boulevard in Worcester, Mass. A few months ago,  after I came up with awful pain on my right side. It was ortho arthritis. I went to Greendale for help.

Greendale therapists put me through several sessions of stretching exercises that zeroed in on the source of the pain.  To my astonishment and great relief, the pain stopped and I returned to normal. I now do the same exercises after tennis when I am all sweated up.

So thanks to Dr. Burke and Greendale Physical Therapy, I could still be around for many years blogging, playing tennis, stealing rocks for my stone walls, snooping around in other people's lives, and stubbornly refusing to grow up.

In any case, even if I die tomorrow, I can't die young like so many people do.  I will have lived a long, full, and happy life and would in death merely be going on to my next adventure. I'd like to die on the tennis court after hitting a winning point.

"Drag the body off the court and keep playing," I tell my tennis guys.

So you know what, having gone through all the stages of life -- birth, childhood, school, college, U.S. Army, marriage, fatherhood, three years teaching in Africa, a 26-year career in educational publishing,  I feel that I have earned the right to be just be me, with all my quirks and immaturity, and to enjoy life.

(How's that for a long sentence? My 8th grade English teacher, Sister Francis Helen, would rap my knuckles. Sorry Sister. But I thank you for having me read my essays in class. It told me that I could write a grammatical sentence and it led to a long career in publishing. )

And, best of all, one look at my age and people, except for my good wife Barbara of course, generally don't expect a damn thing from me. That is perhaps the greatest gift of a healthy old age; you are who you are and as free as a bird to enjoy life to the fullest.

That's exactly what I did in celebration of my May 2 birthday, thanks to my sons Greg and Jon and my wife Barbara.  Unknown to me, the three of them conspired to give me the most different and happiest birthday of my life.

"Hey Dad," Greg said on the telephone, "Jon and I are traveling North and we're going to meet  at Merrimack College. We thought it would be a chance for the three of us to get together. What do you think?"

"Great," I said immediately.

Greg lives with his wife Kelly in Scranton, Penn. and Jon lives in Berkley, Mass with his wife Laurie and their two kids, Aidan and Nathaniel.  Because of distances,  we can rarely get all of us  together. I jumped at the chance.

At Merrimack I  played ice hockey for four years on a full athletic scholarship.  It would be great to visit the school where I had so many memories.  It was where I met Greg and Jon's mom  at the switchboard in the Student Union where I was the evening telephone operator. It was where I built the foundation for my future good life.

We  were to meet Greg and Jon at Merrimack's hockey rink. Well, when Barbara and I entered the room overlooking the ice hockey rink, I got the shock of my life.  The room was full of people and there was a huge banner, shown below with a Warrior jersey made for me, with my old number, 2, and with my name on the back in big letters.

Here I am below in my new Merrimack jersey with that huge banner:

If my heart had not been in such great shape, I would have dropped dead right there.

Then I noticed some guys sitting together at a table. "They are your old Merrimack teammates," Greg said, "

My mouth flew open.  My eyes nearly popped out of my head.  I went over and, sure enough, they were a table full of my old teammates. Merrimack had sent out invites to my old teammates and these four were able to make it. Several had passed away and others lived too far away to make it.

Greg left me with my old teammates and we sat there talking the old Merrimack hockey days for a good 45 minutes. It's an amazing experiences talking to guys you played college hockey with back in 1962 -- over 50 years ago.

Then came another surprise.  Greg and Jon had hired the rink. Unknown to me, Barbara had brought my skates, Jon provided hockey sticks, and out we went to the rink to skate and pass pucks around.  I had not been on skates in a couple of years but I quickly felt at home. I grew up playing hockey in a hockey town, Stoneham, Mass. I'm as home on skates as I am in shoes. That's me below.

"You looked natural out there," Greg told me.

My grandson Nathaniel challenged me to a race and I beat him.  But I'm glad Greg didn't challenge me to a race because he is a terrific hockey player and he was out there flying.

The day was also a family reunion. In the photo below are from left, Aidan, Greg, me, Jon, and Nathaniel. Because we get together so little, the photo is just precious. The only thing I don't like about it is that both of my sons are taller than me!  GRRRRR!

Greg and Jon, I'll never forget this birthday.  It was my best ever.  And with 77 previous birthdays, that is saying something! In fact, I have set up a display in my mancave that I will be looking at just about every day.  Here it is:

So long and keep moving.

For info on my ebooks, click here.

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