By Bob Aronson
I turn 75 on the 17th of February 2014. That birthday brings with it mixed emotions and a flood of memories. Most people I know have one or two birthdays in their lifetime that stand out and have a more lasting effect. I’ve had three; when I turned 21 for obvious reasons; when I turned 50 and now this one, 25 years later.
Age 50 made me feel as though I had climbed the mountain and on the way had accomplished all that I had set out to do in life. I stood at the summit and saw no new challenges or goals only a life of sameness and boredom. I had no idea what was ahead but I somehow felt the excitement of life was over and that I was like a rudderless ship in storm tossed waters. For the first time in my life I was without goals and therefore without ambition. It was a horrifyingly depressing feeling. Recovery came only after I awakened one morning scolded myself, adjusted my attitude and set new goals. That is when I realized 50 was just a number — not a sentence or a punishment.
25 years later I look back and realize that when I turned 50 in1989 there was a whole new life ahead of me. It was to be mixed with success, tragedy, love and a new lease on life, but in 1989 50 was only a number. Birthdays are really quite meaningless because their real significance can only be known when viewed from the future.
That means that age 75 has no meaning yet either. It, too, is just a number. As I approach it I feel more emotionally and intellectually alive than ever. Physically I am limited by some of the issues that affect a man of my years but for the most part I am able to do what my lifestyle demands. If there is a change from 25 years ago it is that I reflect more on the past. When younger I lived life and never looked back. Now I thoughtfully examine my history seeking to find reasons for my choices and what I learned as a result. I wish I had done that earlier because having an awareness of what you’ve learned can eliminate the repetition of life’s errors.
Most notable about every birthday in the last six years is the fact that I can celebrate it only because a stranger somewhere in South Carolina decided to be an organ donor. I got his heart in 2007 without which I would have expired years ago.
The heart saved my body but my wife Robin saved my life and my sanity. She took care of me both pre and post-transplant in times where I was near death’s door, depressed and despondent. My extended illness could not have been easy for her but despite having to move to a new city, run two businesses and take care of me her disposition never changed and her concern for my well-being never flagged.
Robin made life worth living and because of her care and love, attention and encouragement I was restored and alive again. Her compassion, concern, optimism and good humor are contagious and I know that with her by my side nothing is impossible. She captured my old heart and also its replacement. I am the recipient of blessings that far exceed what I deserved. Her influence gave me the courage and the will to heal and to develop new interests and skills and today I am a newer and I hope better person than I was.
Turning 75 is a watershed moment, a turning point of sorts when one must admit despite powerful internal forces of denial that “elderly” is a more than apt description. I am older than the “old men” of my youth but younger than many of my friends. I feel good, I don’t feel old nor do I think that I think old — but my body sends different signals than does my mind resulting in confusing messages being received by the control centers of my brain. “Get up and run” results in “rise slowly and shuffle.”
Early one morning, as the coffee maker gurgled and steamed and some new aches and pains emerged in new places, I put my arthritic fingers on the keyboard and the following is what magically appeared on the screen. I don’t pretend that what I wrote is particularly profound or even new but, it is what I was thinking at 4 AM on one particular day.
When you are young you should enjoy, appreciate and savor every delicious drop of life. It is so incredibly short. There should be no room for pessimism only joy, adventure. success and the pleasure derived from helping others.
When You Are Young, When You Are Old
bu Bob Aronson
When you are young your dreams have eons of time to develop and emerge from the warm confines of their incubator cocoons. And – the dreams never die, they gently morph into something better and more spectacular.
When you are young you are limited only by the infinity of your imagination. Nothing is impossible, unhealthy or fatal. When you are young you are immortal, impervious to harm.
· The tick and tock of life’s relentless clock is muted while the hands lie almost paralyzed and motionless pointing not to hours or minutes or seconds but rather to eternity. When you are young.
· In the early spring of life you own the world with no thought given to losing those you love because time is not a factor and death is not yet part of living.
· When you are young the effects of time are not visited upon our minds or bodies. As with a good wine or cheese, aging for the young is gentle and enhances the flavor of life.
· And when you are young you know you will see the future but it is many calendars away and you have confidence that everything will be better.
· When you are young the future is distant and is yours and it abounds with opportunity but…
· When you are old it is seconds away – each experience is a future lived while awaiting the next.
· When you are old each new day is a victory, each step a record, each breath a miracle, and each new pain is but a pinch to remind you that life still exists within these bones.
When you are old you wonder if your life had meaning, If you helped not hindered, if you made a positive mark somewhere on someone – if the people who count still care.
· When you are old you think about old more often than the young think about youth because senior bodies send some not so simple reminders like pain and…
· Unlike the young who dream of blissful futures and of unbelievable opportunity the elderly think mostly about what has been, who they were and if they made a difference.
· When you are young you meet challenges with a determination to overcome them, “your way.” I might have been far more successful had I taken advantage of the knowledge of those who preceded me who had already invented that wheel.
· When you are old you are filled with gratitude for your many blessings and a joy for life’s victories already accomplished and you can celebrate again and again.
· When you are old you are eager to share knowledge gleaned from profound life experiences but age and lack of title denies us access to settings where our thoughts can be heard and recognition is often given posthumously — I would rather hear it.
· When you are old your chest swells with pride when you think of your children and grands and great grands and you hope that someday, when they reflect that you are to them what they are to you.
When you are old you desperately miss those you love who live in distant places and you try to assuage the pain with memories and images and anticipation of the next contact. Nothing is more important than family and close friends….nothing.
· When you are old you achieve a wisdom gained from facing and defeating adversity and of creating and tasting success but all too often the wisdom is left unshared because no one sought to hear it.
And — finally, when you are gone they will speak with great emotion and affection about your fine qualities and contributions. Words of high praise will be offered by those who mourn your loss. Words never spoken aloud in the presence of the dearly departed. Why?
Now retired and living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Robin he spends his time advocating for patients with end stage diseases and for organ recipients. He is also active in helping his wife with her art business at art festivals and on her Rockin Robin Prints site on Etsy.
Bob is a former journalist, Governor’s Communication Director and international communications consultant.