At my age, “old” is a relative term

Reflections by Bruce Stambaugh
Reflections in a farm pond near Benton, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Soon I’ll be 63. I used to think that age was ancient. I probably was 36 then.

Of course, there was a time when I viewed 36 as old. I was probably 18. When I was nine, 18 was old. You get the pattern. “Old” is a relative term.

I am not saying that I don’t feel my age. I do. I say that because whoever said 60 is the new 50 must have been 50. They sure weren’t 60.

Ever since I hit the big 6 0, an invisible physical switch seems to have been flipped. I eat less and gain more. I tire too easily, but find consistent restful sleep evasive. I have far less hair than five years ago, and what’s left is mostly gray.

My memory isn’t as sharp as it once was, my dexterity not as nimble. Aches and pains seem the rule rather than the exception they once were, even after only moderate exercise.

I might feel the various bodily effects of aging, but my mind says I’m still young at heart. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I sometimes act like I’m still 18. But after a half dozen tosses of the baseball to my grandson, my arm feels like it will fall off.

I recently spent an inspirational afternoon with a handful of young people, all in their 20’s. The outing was intended to be an opportunity for quiet reflection and introspection.

When it was time to share at the end of the retreat, I told those assembled that I really felt for them. Here they all were, young, talented, each one much smarter than me, and yet, they were struggling to find jobs that fit their training, experiences and dreams.

I shared how it was so much different for baby boomers like me when we were their age. We graduated from college, and we could basically name our price and place to work. They all laughed when I said, “And I chose Killbuck, Ohio.”

It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Killbuck Elementary School was where I began my teaching career. I was 21, right out of college with a degree in journalism. The only education class I had had was driver education.

That didn’t matter. There was a teacher shortage, and since I had a bachelor’s degree and heartbeat, I was offered a contract 20 minutes into my interview. I made $6,000 that first year, and $186 more the second.

But like most educators, I clearly didn’t teach for the money. I taught because I loved the kids, the personal interaction, the daily battle between routines and spontaneous interruptions, the classroom characters, and the challenging instructional process. In all that, I felt welcomed with open arms and loving hearts.

Sure there were things I detested. Every job has that. That’s where age has an advantage. I have found it more convenient, healthier, and safer to let the good memories override the bad.

I told that crew of young people that I never ever expected that we would be in a situation where good jobs would be so scarce. In hindsight, I realize just how fortunate I was back then, salary not withstanding.

My birthday is my personal reminder that time is short. I want to be as productive, as positive, and as purposeful as possible. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

I want to get up everyday with a spring in my step, a song in my heart and an audacious hope that I will remain forever young regardless of how “old” I am or will be.

One room school by Bruce Stambaugh
The one room Beechvale School near Benton, Ohio has been abandoned for several years.

Author: Bruce Stambaugh

Writer, marketer, columnist, author, photographer, birder, walker, hiker, husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, township trustee, converted Anabaptist, community activist, my life is crammed with all things people and nature and wonder. My late father gave me this penchant for giving and getting the most out of life, my late mother the courtesy, kindness, and creativity to see the joy in life. They both taught me to cherish the people I am with. I try and fail and try again.

11 thoughts on “At my age, “old” is a relative term”

  1. Bruce, Again, you are certainly an inspiration and I continue to enjoy your stories. I am following you very close in age and wish to thank you for confirming that my sleepless nights will continue. And that my body will continue to feel like I have been hit by a Studebaker. Sometimes twice.But the good news is that I won’t remember any of it. Life truly is too short my friend. Be well and keep writing. We enjoy it.


  2. Dear Bruce, I really enjoy your tales from Amish Country. We love your area and come as often as we can. We usually stay with an Amish couple, but
    now they have left for their winter home in FL. We were up for the Berlin Nativity Parade for the second year. It is so touching to see a Christmas Parade that really centers around Christ’s birth.
    Now for my real reason to write you. You said you were turning 63 soon. I turned 63 in May and my
    husband turned 63 in July. We neither one are on any prescription drugs and have no known health problems….it wasn’t always so though. About two and half years ago my husband’s cholesterol was at
    307 and mine was a little over 200. We had bouts
    with arthritis and just didn’t feel the greatest. Rather than go on meds for cholesterol, my husband asked me to go with him to a naturapathic doctor whose husband owns the local health food store and he is a master herbalists. They both have degrees in nutrition as well. We changed the way we ate, we take several natural supplements, we lost weight without trying, and we both agree that we feel better than we did 10 or 12 years ago. I can’t believe the difference it has made in our lives. I have really gotten in to natural medicine. It seems all the prescription drugs have such side effects that I wonder who actually wants to take them. The drug companies don’t look for a cure, they only want to maintain your condition. They cannot patent natural supplements so they are not interested in testing their benefits…you might want to check out it’s the Life Extension Foundation in Fl. They do have prescription drug labs, but, they research and prefer natural supplements and back up there findings. Also has been a great benefit.
    Dr. Jan Mc Barron is an MD and an ND. She practices in GA and rarely treats with prescriptin drugs. She is on the radio with a call in talk show
    Mon.-Fri. In our area she is on for 2 hrs. daily.
    (We live below Marietta, OH) We take many supplements recommended by her. Thanks for letting me ramble, this has become a passion of mine and if I can help someone else feel better I feel rewarded.
    To close, it’s great to be free of arthritis and just a gereral good feeling of well being.


  3. Hi Bruce, Thank you for the picture of the old school at Beechvale. I was born in the kitchen of a farmhouse just about 1/2 mile North of that school. When I was six months old, our family moved to a large Victorian house in Benton two doors west of the Grocery and three doors East of the Church. My Great Grandfather, Elijah Rowe moved to Benton in 1853. His home was next to the Church to the North. My Grandfather Al Rowe built a new home on the same site. It has a stone front porch and Fireplace. The stones were hauled on a sledge from Martin’s Creek. I attended the two room school in Benton through sixth grade then transfered to Berlin for Jr high and high school.
    I moved away from Benton in 1958 to Wooster. Since then, I have lived in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago twice, Dayton, and Chillicothe Ohio. We moved back to the Mansfield area to be closer to family to retire.

    Thanks again for the great picture.


    1. Tim, Thanks so much for sharing this. I have to apologize, however, for the much-delayed response. I just now saw it. I don’t know how it slipped by me. A Roger Rowe let a message that he wanted to contact you. Replying here is the only way I knew how to do that. I hope you can connect with him. Given your story, you might be related.

      Again, I apologize for overlooking your extensive comment. Happy New Year.



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