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

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.