Tag Archives: aging

A new way for this old guy to tell time

sunrise, Atlantic Ocean

Another day begins.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Years ago, owning a Timex watch was chic. At least it was from my adolescent point of view as influenced by the ubiquitous TV commercials.

The company’s slogan was as simple as their ads. “Timex: The watch that takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” They demonstrated various ways to challenge the integrity of their watches. The timepieces were stepped on, dropped from high places, and crunched by cars.

Those commercials stuck in my impressionable mind. I can’t recall if I ever owned one of their indestructible watches or not. I did wear a watch religiously as a teen.

Doing so was THE way to tell time unless you were in a room with a clock. I wore a watch for most of my adult life. Watches were the standard retirement gift. I got one when I retired as a school principal. I quit wearing it a few years ago for a more accurate way to tell time.

With the advent of cell phones, I stored my wristwatches with my grandfather’s gold pocket watch that my parents gave to me. I ditched the watches for two reasons.

First, wristwatches bothered me when I wore them. In the summer, I sweated with it strapped to my wrist. Other times the expandable metal band pinched my skin. Secondly, I could easily tell time by just looking at my cell phone. The date and time displayed prominently on the phone’s face.

The same was true when I traded in my flip phone for a smartphone. If I want to know the time, I just pull out my phone and glance at the screen. The time is universally accurate.

I realized, though, that time is more than just seconds, minutes, and hours. I also noticed that instead of a wall calendar or the electronic calendars that sync on my phone and laptop computer, I have begun knowing what day of the week it is in a much different fashion.

I use the calendars for the date. I use my weekly pill case for knowing what day it is.

pills, pillbox, medication

My pillbox.

Like many other baby boomers, I’m a walking pharmacy. I’m embarrassed about how many pills I take every day, four times a day, sometimes five depending on my health. I apparently didn’t inherit my parents’ best genes.

It’s sad but true. Every day before breakfast, I religiously bow to my seven-day plastic pill case. It contains four capped compartments for each day of the week. Just so I know where to begin and end, each compartment is labeled for the proper day of the week. And I thought these were just for old people.

I take so many pills that none of the compartments goes empty. I hate taking so much medicine. A lifetime of stuffing my body with gluten, which I unknowingly couldn’t tolerate, drives most of my various medical conditions.

I finally went gluten-free four years ago. But the compounded irritation damage of the gluten still has to be treated and supplemented. Consequently, my pill box is full.

Like it or not, it has come to pass that instead of an indestructible Timex or a handy-dandy smartphone, a utilitarian pill case has become my measure of time. And just like my old watches, don’t look for it on my wrist.

As I empty those pill compartments one by one, I can’t believe how fast the weeks fly by. I lament that it takes a pillbox to remind me of that.

sunset, Amelia Island FL

The sun sets on another day.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Be kind to yourself

Shenandoah National Park, mountain view

Be kind to yourself. Enjoy each view.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I can be my own worst enemy. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that admission.

I hate to be wrong. Even if I make the simplest mistake, I can be extra hard on myself. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am.

I went birding, and the bird I had heard but not seen suddenly popped out of the brush and began preening in the warm morning sun. It was the perfect opportunity for the photo I had been seeking. Only in stalking the bird, the dangling straps of my camera and my binoculars became intertwined. By the time I untangled them, the bird had disappeared.

eastern phoebe

Eastern Phoebe.

I drove into town to buy three items, but I left the short grocery list on the counter at home thinking I could easily remember what to get. I relied on my sharp memory and growling stomach and purchased 10 items. When I returned home, I discovered I forgot to buy milk, the most important item on the list.

Another time I pulled into a fast food restaurant’s drive-through, placed my order, drove to the pickup window, paid for my food, and drove away with a satisfied smile on my face. Halfway home I realized I hadn’t waited for the server to hand me my food.

Before visiting my trio of grandchildren in Virginia last fall, I thought I would surprise them for Halloween. I bought three perfectly plump pumpkins that would make great Jack-O-Lanterns. I set the bright orange pumpkins on the counter in the garage while I finished packing my vehicle for the trip.

When I arrived at their house on a beautiful sunny afternoon, my heart sank. I couldn’t find the pumpkins anyplace until I returned home several days later. The pumpkins all sat in a row on the counter where I had put them.

Civil War reenactment, living history

Playing the part.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. We sometimes do strange things. Depending on your makeup, some folks just shrug off such silliness, while others can’t forgive themselves for being so inept. I leaned to the latter for most of my life.

I’ll confess that I have spent much too much effort in my lifetime mentally beating myself up over such foolishness. I mumble to myself about my stupidity. I call myself names I wouldn’t dare say out loud.

As I have gotten older, I’ve noticed the goofy mistakes have increased exponentially. I attribute that to the aging process. Several of my peers have verified my suspicions, but not necessarily in the way you might expect.

The other seniors have related similar lapses. They, too, show disgust at their ineptness of leaving luggage by the door, losing cell phones, wondering where their glasses are when they are on their head.

I felt great relief in hearing them tell their sadly funny stories and enjoying their hearty laughter at their own forgetfulness. I took my cue from their more appropriate responses.

I realized self-chastisement was a waste of time. Negative self-talk wasn’t helping the situation. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s just human nature. I feel much better laughing off my self-induced comedy of errors.

If you’ve been forgetful lately, just know that you are not alone. So be kind to yourself when you do err. Let it go. Laugh a little. Have fun with the miscue, with those you’re with, and with life.

Be kind to yourself. By the way, has anyone seen my car keys?

sunrise, Lakeside OH, Lake Erie

A good way to be kind to yourself.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Staying healthy in the throes of winter

shoveling snow, Ohio

Finished shoveling.

By Bruce Stambaugh

February is upon us. Hopefully, winter in northeast Ohio is nearing its peak.

We don’t know what that means regarding the weather ahead. We simply long for milder days when we can be outdoors without the clumsiness of thick coats.

Most of us senior citizens avoid the nasty weather by staying inside or fleeing to warmer locales. In the process, we tend to overfeed February’s cabin fever. That’s not good for our health at any age.

I have a rather restricted diet due to some inherited genes I’d rather trade away. Of course, I can’t, so I am careful about what I eat. My loving wife goes out of her way to create the food that my body can handle.

For me, though, eating has never been a top priority. I’d rather be out and about, even in the harshest weather. After a measurable snow, you’ll likely find me outside pushing and shoveling the white stuff from the sidewalk and parking pad.

When I was younger, I’d take it as a personal challenge to shovel the entire driveway out to the county road. If the snow was heavy and wet, I took my time. Neva often joined me, along with our daughter and son, if they weren’t already off sledding with friends.

Amish buggy, snowy day

At rest.

Those days are long over. After this winter’s first measurable snowfall, I was out in it as usual. I bundled up in my typical fashion, hoodie, stocking cap, insulated coveralls, warm gloves and gumboots.

Snow removal isn’t a fashion show. It’s hard work, especially for someone pushing 70. For whatever reason, that thought blew into my head like the cold north wind. I remembered to take plenty of breaks and to pace myself.

During my frequent breathers, I observed crows sail through the still falling snow, and heard a state plow truck’s discordant rumble echo in the frosty air from a mile away. I stopped shoveling after I had cleared the sidewalk and turnaround.

I didn’t want to be a statistic, a seasonal casualty to stubbornness. I knew my limits and decided not to push them. When the snow is too deep, my good neighbor rescues me with his pickup’s snowplow.

The amount he charges is a whole lot cheaper than the negative consequences if I try to exert myself beyond my physical capacities. No one needs that heartache.

northern cardinal, snow, bird feeder

Beauty in the snow.

I’d rather pay the pittance charged than incur the repercussions. My inflated male ego has to take a backseat to my bodily well-being. It’s that simple.

I know I need the exercise, but braving winter’s harsh elements at my age can prove counterproductive. I look for other options to stay physically fit though some would question whether I have ever been in that condition.

I like to walk when I can, but that isn’t always a year-round option in northern climes. Other exercise options are easy to find.

My wife and I enjoy doing yoga regularly either in our home or at class. We have found it both physically and spiritually healing. The good Lord knows I need both.

I do simple stretches daily to ease my tennis elbow pain and to loosen my tight hamstrings. Those simple practices do wonders for me.

I’ll continue to be mindful of both what I eat and the portions I consume. I’ll continue to intentionally workout my body and mind daily.

Every new day is a gift. I must do my part to welcome another tomorrow.

farm lane, winter in Ohio

I’m glad my drive isn’t this long!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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August’s end means new beginnings

walk to school, Amish boys

Back to school. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

A Belted Kingfisher flew furiously over the fresh mown hay towards a neighbor’s pond. Breakfast was likely on its mind.

My farmer neighbor hitched his workhorses and teddered the hay to help it dry. The Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Cliff Swallows circled the productive locomotion and devoured every insect the man, the machine and his faithful team dispersed.

A refreshing north wind eased the day’s early humidity. No need for a calendar. All signs pointed to August’s end.

A few trees had already begun to transition from their chlorophyll green to their disguised shades. Even before the berries on the dogwoods blushed bright red, the trees’ leaves curled and revealed hints of crimson and lavender.

blooming hydrangea

The hydrangea. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

My energetic wife had already deadheaded the once lovely hosta blooms that adorned the leafy plants in her luscious flower gardens. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, and various butterflies, bees, and other pollinating insects had completed their instinctive work.

The hydrangea bush bloomed full and pure against the garden shed. It demanded daily watering in August’s heat and dryness.

Juvenile birds, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Song Sparrows and Blue Jays among them, found the feeders and the birdbaths on their own. Another aviary generation will forge into fall and winter without knowing what lies ahead as if any of us do.

American Goldfinch on sunflower

Eating fresh. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The acrobatics of the American Goldfinches provided free entertainment as they worked over the volunteer sunflowers that sprouted from bird feeder droppings. Fresh food is not just a human preference.

The big yellow school buses began carting anxious and enthusiastic children alike to and from school. I waved to the drivers as they passed me on my walk.

People often ask me if I miss those days; if I don’t have some innate longing to return to my first career. The short answer is, “No, I don’t.”

I loved the children, whether teaching or being their principal. I greatly enjoyed the interactions of parents and staff members, even when we disagreed. I have no resentments or regrets. Neither do I have any wish to reenlist.

oat shocks

Straw soldiers. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

My life has moved on. I am the same person, just at a different place in my turn at life’s cycle. I have fond, fond memories of my teaching days and principal days. But now I have neither the desire nor energy to compete in today’s educational whirlwind too often driven by politics instead of common sense.

I would rather sit on my back porch, as I am now, taking in the world as each moment flashes by. I don’t want to miss anything. I want to rise each day to enjoy the sunrise and bid farewell to the evening light that dims all too soon.

fluffing hay, teddering hay

Teddering the hay. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Each day is an opportunity to live, to be alive, to help others, to listen, to look, to breath, to pray silently, to work diligently for peace in a troubled world. That is my challenge now.

August has come and gone, always too fast, always too hot and dry. August melds into September.

We can only embrace it, for there are marvelous days ahead. I’ll watch for them whether from my back porch or wherever I might be, knowing that too many in the world will not have the pastoral view or luxuriousness of trusting neighbors that like mine.

It’s my duty to share goodness and joy with others as my life, too, passes from August into September. Isn’t that the real responsibility of all of us at any age?

August, sunset, Holmes Co. OH

August sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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This baby boomer is aging gracefully or not

fishing, baby boomers, retirement

Baby boomers like this couple can relax with hobbies like fishing, if they can get out of the chair to reel in their catch. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I and two other couples, all baby boomers, sat around the table playing dominoes. Besides the antics of the game, we laughed at the anecdotal stories we shared about our particular infirmities.

None in the group of six was sick. We just chuckled at our ailments brought on by our aging.

Beyond the stories of goofiness and crazy interactions, a common theme arose. Though we all agreed that we still thought young, clearly, we weren’t teenagers anymore. In fact, we were all grandparents.

While laughing at our gradual frailties, the game almost became secondary to our gathering. And yet, I felt a certain relief that it wasn’t just me that was feeling his age.

Keep in mind that those of us in the baby boomer generation had the reputation for thinking ourselves invincible, clutching college degrees and armed with an ironclad arrogance that we could somehow save the world. Now that I need help buttoning my shirts, I know that mindset was a bit over the top.

grandkids, creativity

It’s nice for some of us boomers to practice our creativeness with our grandchildren. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The lack of dexterity is probably my biggest frustration. I have the hardest time picking up small items from flat surfaces.

Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife who at least saves her chuckling about my dilemma until she is out of earshot. At my age, that isn’t too far.

My hearing seems to be fading fast, although I’ve had two different doctors check it with the same results. I’m right on the border of needing hearing aids.

I’m holding off with the purchase. Man that I am, I prefer to cup my hand up to my good ear to hear conversations. Besides, the hardest frequency for me to detect is that of my wife’s voice.

I’ve had bifocals for years now and get along just fine. My good optometrist ensures me that all is well physically with my eyes. I’m glad for that, as long as I can remember where I put my glasses.

pills, pillbox, medication

My pillbox. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Memory was probably the number one issue discussed around the game table that night. There was universal agreement that our recollections were slipping. We all confessed to walking from one room to another room to retrieve an item, only to forget what we were after once we got there. Misery loves company.

To help me keep track of what medications I have to take and when, I use something at which I recently scoffed. I fill a pillbox, four slots per day, with my medications. None of the spaces goes empty.

Filling my personal pharmaceutical dispenser has an ancillary benefit besides organizing my pills. Every time I restock the thing I realize another week has passed. It works better than a calendar.

The table talk revealed that I was fortunate compared to others. I usually have no problem sleeping. Other seniors wish they could, or require machines to keep them from inadvertently holding their breath at night.

Of course the evening I wrote this, I couldn’t sleep. See what I mean?

I won’t mention the gray hairs, or in my case, baldness that foretells our age. I only see the wrinkles and crows feet on the faces of others. Mine is smooth as a baby’s.

Officially defined as the years after retirement, the Golden Years usually begin at age 65. Now that I’ve crossed that demarcation, I feel a little tarnished.

I’ll age as gracefully as I can. After all, I need all the grace I can get.

kayak, sunset, Bruce Stambaugh

The sun is setting on the baby boomer generation as they paddle into retirement. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Does this mean I’m officially retired?

By Bruce Stambaugh

Last year it was Medicare. This time it’s Social Security.

When I turned 65, I had to sign up for Medicare as my primary medical insurance. It’s the way the program has successfully worked since its inception. You hit the magic number and you’re in.

hoarfrostbybrucestambaughI’ve had no problem using the insurance since I was enrolled. I did, however, have an internal issue with it. I looked in disbelief at the Medicare card on which my name was boldly printed.

Could I really be this old? When my next birthday rolled around, I was over my denial. I had accepted my age and the fact that I am definitely in the autumn of my life.

In truth, I wasn’t expecting to receive anything from Social Security. Having been a public educator as my first career, I had always been told I likely wouldn’t get much from Social Security, even if I had the required number of quarters to qualify, which I did.

I decided to check anyhow. I had worked my way through college, and after my 30 years in education, I dabbled in marketing for local businesses as my second career. All the while I had paid into the government retirement plan.

I called the local Social Security office in Wooster, Ohio and told them my situation. They asked a couple of questions, and said someone would call me back in the afternoon. I didn’t hold my breath.

A mere two hours later the person who handles calculating individual benefits called and gave me my numbers. They weren’t great, but more than I had anticipated.

nocrabbingbybrucestambaughI weighed my options, and decided to go for it. I was told it was best to enroll online. I did, and surprisingly, the process only took 15 minutes.

A couple of Saturday mornings later, the phone rang. The caller ID showed it was the Social Security Administration. Why would they be calling on a Saturday morning? I answered the phone to find out.

The bubbly lady who was calling from Chicago first verified that she was indeed speaking to the right person. She asked me one question, did a quick calculation, and came back with the exact same information that the nice man from Wooster did.

Then she asked to speak to my wife. I put Neva on the phone, and she answered several questions for the upbeat woman. I motioned to Neva that I wanted to talk with the Social Security representative again.

When they had finished, Neva handed me the phone, and I told the lady I was surprised that she was calling on a Saturday morning. She quickly explained that so many of us Baby Boomers were signing up for Social Security that the office was swamped.

“The overtime pay is nice, too, just in time for the holidays,” she said with an honest, hearty laugh. I chuckled, too.

I thanked her for her efficiency and kindness, and wished her blessings for the holidays. She returned the same for my family and me.

When I hung up, my wife related that the kind woman noticed that Neva would be eligible for Medicare this year, which is why she wanted to speak to her. So she signed Neva up for that.

Imagine that. A government worker, who some would call a bureaucrat, went above and beyond the call of duty by being proactive on a Saturday morning. Neva and I were both pleased and impressed.

I received my first Social Security deposit right on time. I still have one question though. Does that mean I am really retired?

autumnofmylifebybrucestambaugh

As I enter the autumn of my life, I hope all the views are this colorful.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Autumn is upon us in more ways than one

foggymorningbybrucestambaugh

Foggy morning.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Fall is definitely in the air here in northern Ohio. The telling signs of autumn are everywhere.

A drive through our luscious countryside or a leisurely hike or ride along the Holmes County Trail or just a peek out a window all sing the same song. Fall has arrived.

The leaves have begun to change. Dense morning fog magically gives way to bright, sunny days, only to reappear the next morning to begin the misty process anew. The days cool, warm and cool again in alluring rhythm.

I marvel at nature’s humor.

I bask in the warmth of the morning sun high on a rural road. To the west, residents have to feel socked in. A thick, cottony cloud stretches the full length of the Killbuck Valley. The morning’s colder, heavier air spreads the wet blanket over the precious marsh teeming with its mix of migrants and year-round residents.

foginthevalleybrucestambaugh

Fog in the valley.

Fields of golden rod and patches of wild daisies bring a warming brilliance to the once verdant landscapes. The lessening sunlight and cooler temperatures tell the foliage it’s time to morph into the secreted richer colors. Once emerald stalks fade fast from a sickly yellow to a dormant brown even before the first frost of the season.

Wildlife sense nature’s urgings, too. Small flocks of Eastern Bluebirds, still flashing their azure brilliance, congregate, searching for both sustenance and winter cover. A few Cedar Waxwings still buzz from the tops of their favorite playgrounds, while the chatty Chimney Swifts have already checked out for the season.

changingleavesbybrucestambaugh

Changing leaves.

Despite having access to calendars and electronic device reminders, humankind seems to be in denial. Men and women clad themselves in t-shirts and shorts as if it were still July. Are they naïve or hopeful that fall will imitate summer? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

No matter my activity, I dress in layers or carry extra apparel with me. I suspect it’s more me than the weather. I’ve noticed that the older I get the colder the days seem, even though the temperatures remain near their seasonal norms.

Further reflecting tells me that I am entering the October of my life as well. Transitioning from the long summer of busy workdays mingled with family meals and overlapping activities have evaporated like those morning mists. My good wife seems to have made the adjustments better than me.

waningmoonbybrucestambaugh

The waning Harvest Moon.

I enjoyed my career as an educator. In the 30 years of serving youngsters and cajoling adults, I learned a lot. I embraced my second career in marketing and writing with equal zeal.

Now reality is finally setting in for me. My parents are gone. My wife’s parents are gone. Friends from the Greatest Generation are fading fast, not to mention acquaintances from my own generation. I must ready to face the fall.

This certain transition hasn’t been easy. At times I have emotionally struggled with entering life’s October time. Yet facts are facts. My diminished hearing, loss of nimbleness and achy knees tell me that my autumn has arrived, too.

However long I have, I want to live life out with zest, energy and productivity. Fall is in the air. The harvest full moon is waning.

Whatever your age, together let us greet each day with a song and a smile. Let us celebrate the goodness that surrounds us regardless of whatever circumstances or personal season we encounter.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Mixed emotions about joining the Medicare crowd

Sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

There is a difference between thinking young and thinking that you are young.

Despite what I see in the mirror every morning and my occasional childish behavior, I believe that I still think young. I readily acknowledge that I am no longer young. The baldhead, gray whiskers and skin creases are obvious hints.

My body reminds me I’m no longer a spring chicken as well. With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I could count the ways. I am pretty sure, however, no one wants to hear about my aches and pains. Mine are insignificant compared to those of others.

Sun rays by Bruce StambaughNevertheless, with my 65th birthday on the horizon, I am now a certified, card-carrying member of Medicare. When the card came in the mail recently, I didn’t know whether to smile or cry. It was sobering to see my name boldly printed on that red, white and blue card. Reality, as difficult as it was to accept, hit hard.

Facts are facts. The truth is that I am entering the last quarter of my life, assuming the best. I have to be realistic about who I am and what possibly lies ahead. I know I could get hit crossing the road retrieving the mail. However, with longevity in my family, I expect to live another 20 to 30 years.

The key of course is how I live them, not how long I live them. Isn’t that the case for each and every one of us?

I try to take good care of myself in every aspect of my life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. When the weather permits, I try to walk at least 30 minutes everyday. Walking not only exercises my body, but stirs my mind as well.

White-crowned sparrow by Bruce StambaughThe brisk stroll invigorates my muscles and gets my blood flowing. The soft, cheery call of the White-crowned Sparrows singing from the creek-side brush uplifts my mood.

Greeting the scholars gathering for another day of lessons at the one-room Amish school I pass brings back many fond memories of my own days in the classroom, both as a student and an educator. The hearty wave of my friend, Martha, reminds me how blessed I am and have been. Like a brilliant double rainbow, friends enrich my spirit.

Inspirations like those keep me going. I think back and recall the good times, allowing them to override any and all negative experiences, and there have been plenty. It is easy to come to a simple conclusion. I am grateful.

The secret to living a full, happy life is no secret at all. Bringing joy to others is really what it’s all about. In life’s daily clamor, it’s easy to lose sight of that basic fact.

Maren by Bruce Stambaugh

Maren, 3.

If I have learned anything in my first 64 years, it is this: Blessing others by what I do, say and write blesses me. I know I have fallen short too many times. The key is to keep on trying. A simple kindness like holding the door for someone will suffice.

I didn’t expect signing up for Medicare to be so traumatic or reflective. I sighed to myself, accepted the card and tucked it away in the most appropriate place in my wallet, right behind the pictures of my grandchildren.

That way whenever I need to pull out the card that says I’m old, the shining eyes and effusive smiles of my grandchildren will keep me young.

Grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh

Davis, 6, and Evan, 8.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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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.

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Giving praise where praise is due

Marigolds by Bruce Stambaugh

Marigolds highlight an Amish homestead.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It had been a difficult day.

As the silvery sunset melted into the horizon, I reflected on the last few days and the people and events that had occurred. In reviewing the various situations, it hit me that like it or not I was entering the October of my own life, and that got my attention.

Days earlier I had met my friend Steve in a Mexican restaurant in the city where I was born and raised. Steve is a long-time buddy connected to my school principal days. Steve and I have a lot in common. First and foremost is that we both like to talk, at least according to our spouses.

If for no other reason than that alone, Steve and I have agreed to meet periodically without the wives. We get more talking done that way.

Steve is the kind of friend every guy should have. He doesn’t let you get away with anything. He is a self-appointed critic of my writing, and is unabashed about finding any mistakes that somehow make it through to publication. Well, at least he thinks they are mistakes, but he usually is mistaken.

Bright Angel Canyon by Bruce Stambaugh

Bright Angel Canyon at the Grand Canyon, AZ is a favorite spot for hikers, painters and photographers alike.

That’s the kind of friends we are. He has the same theology about technology that I do. He loves to frequent the western United States and does so annually, months at a time, mostly hunting for arrowheads. Archeology and travel are other mutual interests.

At bat by Bruce Stambaugh

Baseball is my favorite sport.

Another thing we have in common is baseball. He hates it. I love it. Also, we enjoy discussing politics, until the conversation gets too political, then we switch to a more congenial topic, like baseball.

We talk about our late fathers and how our mothers are doing. And of course, we extol our wives, and try not to roll our eyes too much. Did I mention we laugh a lot?

A few days later, I took my mother on a short drive around the colorful countryside near the retirement home where she lives in Walnut Creek, Ohio. Mom always enjoys getting out when one of us “kids” can take her.

Mud Valley by Bruce Stambaugh

A typical scene in Ohio's Amish country, this one near Walnut Creek, Ohio.

This day was exceptional. The sky was pure blue, allowing the sun to heighten the already vivid colors. Since Mom was an avid and prolific watercolor painter, I always hope these short rides spark a memory of those days gone by when she and her friends would find a spot to paint, set up their easels and spend the day communing with nature and one another, beautifully interpreting what they saw.

Besides the warm hues of the leaves, a stunning red-tailed hawk flew right across our path. Around the curve, Mom spied some flashy marigolds. All in all, it was an invigorating jaunt. Seeing that Mom enjoyed the little excursion, I chose to tell her a comment that Steve had shared with me at the Mexican restaurant.

Marian Stambaugh by Bruce Stambaugh

Marian Stambaugh, 89, taught me to see and share in creative ways.

Knowing my mother was an accomplished landscape artist, Steve said, “You have your mother’s eye.” I non-verbally asked for clarification. “Instead of a brush, you paint with words and through the lens of your camera.” I don’t know if Steve noticed or not, but tears welled in my eyes. I was honored with the keen compliment. When I shared the kind words with Mom, tears welled up in her eyes, too. Despite her advanced dementia, knowing that Mom had understood at least a little of the depth and breadth of Steve’s insight made the compliment all the more meaningful.

The circle of blessing was now complete. It had returned to its rightful owner, the creative and artful woman who had taught me to see and share Creation’s beauty.

Suddenly, this difficult October day didn’t seem so difficult after all.

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