Seventy years. That’s many moons and a huge rock of ages. We’re talking an eon, an era, an epoch.
However I wish to describe it, there’s one fact I cannot deny. It is my age.
None of the birthdays divisible by 10 bothered me. Not 30, not 40, not 50 or 60.
But 70. Jeez, that just sounds old.
In the last couple of months, Selma City Council members Yvette Montijo and Scott Robertson turned 50th. Half a century.
To them, I say, with glee, that 70 is the new 50.
But that is not entirely correct. Sure, there are days I can convince myself I am closer to 50 than 70. On those days, my back feels strong, my golf shots soar high and I can glide through my day like a sleek BMW flying past everyone on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Then there are those days when I wake up, slide my creaky knees off the bed and try to start the engine for a body that resembles a 10-year old Corolla with a couple dents in the grille.
That’s when I need to be reminded that the age of one’s body is not an indicator of mental strength, tenacity or inquisitiveness. That my body may be hurting, but my mind is still sharp.
Automobile pioneer Henry Ford said it well: "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."
I reached for the phone on my birthday night and called my friend Mario Guerrero, retired Selma school teacher. Mario and I were born on the exact same day, Oct. 7, 1947, about 10 miles apart in Los Angeles County.
Since retiring from teaching, Guerrero has partnered with his son, Chris, in a Los Angeles film company, Wyoma Films.
When I talk with Mario, I instantly get caught up in his enthusiasm for life and his work. And I recall the comment from author Somerset Maugham that, contrary to common belief, “imagination is more powerful in the mature than in the young.”
So I try to keep my brain sharp by reading, writing and doing the daily crossword puzzle. And, oh yeah, writing this column.
I also stay physically active with Pickleball and golf several days a week and occasional visits to the gym. And I endeavor to eat right, but changing 70 years of bad nutrition habits takes some work.
I’m not much interested in new-age cures for the getting-older blues. To quote folk singer Utah Phillips, “No matter how new-age you get, old age gonna kick your butt.”
So I’ve discovered my own method for feeling young. Spending time with my grandson a couple days a week can do that. Joaquin likes to play on the equipment at Shafer Park and coast his bike down the grassy hills. I also got him a tee ball set for the backyard, and now he’s whacking whiffle-ball line drives into my belly.
Occasionally I do a double-play of child and dog care. Joaquin and I take Maggie to the dog park, and they run each other while I relax on the bench. Watching a boy and his dog cavort is one of the world’s best pleasures.
Do I get tired of pushing the young boy on the swing? Do I weary of chasing the dog around the dog park? What do you think?
Still, it makes me wonder: Was I ever that young and free? Do I remember swinging in the wind, my hair flowing? Did I tell really hit that game-winning home run in Little League and edit a weekly newspaper in high school?
Did I graduate from college and get married in the same week at age 21? Did I scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Did I really break 90 on the golf course on several occasions? All those feats seem so far away in the past. When did I get so old?
And why do some folks seem to have a knack for keeping a youthful spirit even as their body ages? It reminds me of the Bob Dylan lyric: “I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.”
So when the backs hurts, or the hip acts up or I’m trying to plead to the grandson that it’s too hot or too cold for one more lap around the block, I channel the wisdom of the ageless baseball pitcher Satchel Paige, who pitched in Major League Baseball into his late 40s.
“Age is a case of mind over matter,” Paige said. “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”