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Seventy-Three Years

INSPIRATION

Inspiration for a story/reflection can come from many sources. This one came from two songs, 100 Years, by Five For Fighting, When We Were Young, by Adele, and the friendship I had with Frank Zderic, which ended with his death two years ago. I hope you find something in it which relates to you.

seventy-three-years

PROLOGUE

It goes by so quickly, the cliched blink of an eye, not so cliched when you are at the tail end of the journey. The Magical Mystery Tour of Life speeds by, step right this way, climb aboard, watch your step, now, and hang on tight, we might hit some turbulence on this fascinating journey.

I stand before you, in the seventy-third year of my life, and I am dumbfounded, in awe, and shocked that it all passed by with such unrelenting speed. Where in the hell did the time go? How did I reach this point, a point where I look back, with crystal-clear memories, on . . .

FIFTEEN

No limits! No fear! Grab life by the shorthairs and ride it into submission. The sky is the limit, Billy Boy, that’s what I heard, anything is possible, apply yourself, lay the foundation, work hard, my father said, but all I could hear was play hard, wring every ounce of enjoyment out of this gift I’d been given.

But the young rarely see life as a gift, do they? We are too busy enjoying the hell out of it to fully appreciate the countless hours playing ball, chasing girls, swimming lakes, hiking in the mountains, laughing, doing all manner of ridiculous things, drive-in movies, driving too fast, playing too fast, pushing limits we weren’t even aware existed.

We were going to conquer the world, or so we thought, college and success awaited us all, daydreams steeped in enthusiasm and unfounded confidence, unaware of the pitfalls that awaited, unaware that the universe doesn’t give a good goddamn about silly hopes and plans based on those hopes.

We were clueless, but a good clueless, for all of us need to start the journey with boundless good intentions and limitless energy, like a granite mountain before the roaring river begins to grind it down.

seventy-three-years

TWENTY-TWO

The grinding-down begins, but in a subtle manner. It begins, for many of us, with the job, the career, the chosen path. The job means money, money means spending, perhaps too much spending, which leads to debt, which leads to commitment to the job, and so it goes.

Room and board are no longer just words but necessities, necessities which require money, money which can only be had through more work, and suddenly those playdays are fewer, the spur-of-the-moment road trips diminish in number, those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer are shortened.

Disappointments rise, certainly not overwhelming, but in numbers previously unexpected, unforeseen. The career is unfocused, perhaps even unattainable, the doubts begin, the realization, for the very first time, that unlimited only applies in the minds of daydreaming fools, that there are limits to just about everything in life, and it is at twenty-two we begin to realize that we, too, have limits, there is only so much we are capable of doing, only so much we can master, only so much we can realistically expect out of life.

So we party-hearty, push away the negative thoughts, hold on tighter to the dreams, wait for the big break, nose to the grindstone, keep working, keep moving forward, knowing Our Day will come, it’s just around the corner, a toast, maybe two, lift our glasses to the future when our ship will surely dock at the Port of Success.

But the ship has sprung a leak and we don’t even realize it.

THIRTY-THREE

One date leads to two, two leads to ten, and pretty damned soon that casual fling is an “I do,” and all the responsibility which comes with those two little one-syllable words. Two words, three letters in total, but they spell commitment and they ring in in a new chapter of your life.

Marriage, perhaps a child, perhaps three, four, the need for a larger home, the need for longer hours at work, responsibilities piling up faster than the diaper pile, learning to live with someone else, learning to communicate and problem-solve and share deep thoughts, learning to share feelings, allowing oneself to be vulnerable, scary shit, man, scary shit indeed.

But thirty-three isn’t all about fright. There is newfound confidence, knowing you can provide, knowing you can answer the bell for each round of the fight, a marathoner in the greatest shape of his life, loving the spouse and loving the kids, picnics in the park, family vacations, the warmth and comfort of another human being next to you on cold nights, it’s all a balancing act at thirty-three, just cocky enough to think you’ve got it all handled, perhaps too cocky, bordering on delusional, for unknown, at thirty-three, at least for many of us, is the knowledge that life can get one hell of a lot tougher, down and dirty, a bare-knuckle prize fight which will soon test every ounce of your fortitude and determination.

FORTY-FOUR

The scars are many by forty-four. Some have developed scar tissue. Others break open at a slight touch. You wake up in the mornings, increasingly it seems, and you can’t find the rose-colored glasses you’ve worn for so many years. The body, once an indestructible temple, aches from unknown origins, as stones crumble along the foundation. The laughter, at times, is more forced, oftentimes used to guard against tears which arrive unbidden at the strangest of times.

Climbing the corporate ladder, or climbing any damned ladder, is more difficult, dare I say impossible, the rungs above incapable of holding your weight, so you cling, uncertainly, to the middle rungs, knowing you’ll never see the top, hoping you don’t fall below, at forty-four the realization begins to make itself known, you might be living as good as it gets, or you already lived it, and the future holds more of the same old, same old.

The kids are older, you are no longer the hero in their eyes, the luster from your red cape no longer vibrant, and the spouse is more friend than lover, wild escapades under satin sheets replaced by a peck on the cheek as you both collapse in bed, too drained and exhausted from just trying to make frayed ends meet to even consider love-making.

Mowing lawns, barbecues with neighbors, church gatherings, company parties, vacations to never-before seen locations, cramming in as much of living as possible, gathering up the memories for later years, faded photographs lest we forget, God please don’t let us forget.

FIFTY-FIVE

You stand, straddling a line, separating the middle-aged from the elderly, and that line is more pronounced with each day, the distance between the two labels shortening with each breath as you begin to think of retirement, and a new concern enters the fray, will you be able to retire, can you afford to do so, how will you ever make it work out?

Perhaps cocktail hour begins a little earlier than it once did. Perhaps medications are now needed to propel that once-Adonis body through a routine day. The children are gone, and with them parental responsibility, and with that departure comes a new realization, that life without purpose is frightening, what in the holy hell are you going to do? Perhaps you take up a hobby. Perhaps you become involved in a cause. Or perhaps you lengthen that cocktail hour into two, or three, helping you to fall asleep in the recliner while watching reruns of “Friends” and wondering where all of yours have gone to.

The ”what-ifs” creep into your self-dissections at fifty-five, the shouldas, the couldas, and the wouldas, the Holy Trinity of self-incrimination, like that actor from long ago, “ I coulda been a contender,” if only I had done this, if only I had done that, if I could have caught a damned break along the way, a cavalcade of thoughts keeping you awake at nights, twenty years from the end game in an average lifespan, twenty years, if you are lucky, to turn the ship around, find new seas to sail, desperation now creeping into the subconscious as the grandkids play on the Big Toys and the kids share, with you, digital proof that their lives are every bit as exciting as yours once was.

Your spouse may, or may not, still be with you at fifty-five, a throw of the dice either way, fifty-fifty odds, maybe a bit worse, either divorce or death breaking asunder that which God once smiled upon, and quite frankly the thought of starting over in a relationship is terrifying at best and completely impossible at worst.

Nursing home? Assisted living? Words which were once unspeakable now enter the conversation, if not at that moment, certainly soon, and you begin to receive letters in the mail about the convenience of cremation and the wonders of Viagra. You find warmth on cold winter nights, and comfort throughout the calendar year, from your memories, better than any damned electric blanket as the blood thins and Arizona begins to sound good.

SIXTY-SIX

You may want to deny it, in fact you try hard to do so, but you have reached the peak and are heading down the slope. You wake up, each day, to the new normal, new aches and pains, new reasons why you shouldn’t attempt that or you shouldn’t consider this, many more minuses than plusses at sixty-six, and that’s just the stone-cold real of it. Your stamina is diminished. The natural process has made itself abundantly clear. The vibrant body of yesteryear has dents, its gears need constant lubrication, and keeping that body in outstanding running condition requires more work than you are willing, or able, to do.

Thank God you still have your mind, hopefully you do, but even your mind will conspire against you at times, silently in the night remorseful thoughts come creeping, or even sweet memories of younger years become sweet melancholy with the knowledge that it will never be the same again.

Your friends are fewer and your immediate family members dwindle, the natural process, siblings and parents most likely gone or soon to be, and the remaining friendships and family members become more important. You cling to them like flotsam after a shipwreck. They keep you afloat, keep your head above the rising tide.

The mundane becomes vibrant at sixty-six. Leaves changing colors, the bite of a North wind, a friendly smile, all become more important at sixty-six, a new appreciation for the finer nuances of life, the realization that every single day is a gift, not to be wasted but to be embraced and thoroughly enjoyed, for that is what life is all about, you realize, the friendships and loves you have experienced, the quality of the life you lived, the legacy you leave behind.

Me and my best friend for life

Me and my best friend for life

SEVENTY-THREE

“It was just like a movie. It was just like a song. When we were young.”

Wishing you all a long and happy life!

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

Comments

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

Thank you very much, Devika!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 19, 2021:

Happy belated Birthday and I wish you happiness, good health and a fun day too.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 19, 2021:

No worries, Li-Jen. I appreciate you taking the time to wish me a Happy Birthday. Thank you very much!

Li-Jen Hew on October 19, 2021:

Happy Belated Birthday, Bill! I'm sorry for missing your birthday! It's a great achievement to reach 73! Congratulations! I like how you breakdown what it was like at different stages in life.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 17, 2021:

I can handle cute, Rodric. Thanks! LOL I'm glad you enjoyed my reflections. I have quite a few years to reflect on, my friend.

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on October 15, 2021:

This is beautiful. I am 44 right now and I Can Relate! God be willing, and I am with Him, I will live to experience the other things and relate. Thank you for this. That photo of you as a boy was cute. I'm sorry. I couldn't think of a better word.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 15, 2021:

Full speed would be nice, Brenda. I'll cross my fingers in a show of positive solidarity with you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 15, 2021:

No apology necessary, Amara. Thank you very much.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 14, 2021:

Bill

Thanks. I'm healing pretty good from my oral surgery.

There are just other issues at play right now.

Take care.

I hope to be back at full speed soon.

Amara from Pakistan on October 14, 2021:

A very Happy birthday Mr Bill, sorry for the late wish as I was facing some issues with my comments, which were not showing up.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

PS, it may or may not be all in the mind, but the sound of my bones creaking is very real. lol Thank you for being here on my "special" day. Hugs heading your way.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you Flourish! William Shatner at 90 is amazing. A trip into space? Really? Makes my daily walks look miniscule. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Venkatachari M, your expectations began at an early age, as did mine. We both had to mature very quickly, my friend. Thank you for sharing part of your story, and thank you for the birthday wishes.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

No, Mary, that is not a good road to travel. Gratitude for the gifts we've been given, my friend, and I am grateful for you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

I am grateful, Rosina, for the wish of long life, happiness, love, and peace. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Centfie, best wishes to you as you move towards 73, and thank you for joining me on my birthday.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you again, MIebakagh! You are very kind.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you, Brenda! I hope your life becomes a bit easier soon, and you are back to full speed sooner rather than later. Blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you, MG! It was nice of you to visit me on my birthday. I am a rich man with so many friends.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan! I appreciate your very kind words, and I appreciate your support and positivity as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Sorry I depressed you, Maria. Let's call it sweet melancholy rather than depression, okay? :) Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you, Nicey! I appreciate it very much.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

That is very kind of you, Heidi! Thank you my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you, Denise! Oddly, I forgot to eat ice cream yesterday, oddly because I usually have a bowl of ice cream every night. What a strange thing for me to forget. lol

Blessings always, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you, Peggy, and may we both see many more Octobers.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you, Sha, and no apology necessary. You are always so good about remembering to send cards. I wish I was as good about it as you are. You are the Keeper of Traditions!

love,

bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you Miebakagh! My God bless you as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you Linda! I appreciate you taking the time to be a part of my birthday celebration.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2021:

Thank you Linda! I'm a bit surprised I'm still here writing about 73 years, truth be told. I figure every single day going forward is a gift.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 14, 2021:

We are the same age...actually I am OLDER...O my. My birthday is in January. My family and I were just speaking of age this morning and what is means to be 'old'. It's all in the mind, pretty much. Some spots on me creak more but my mind is still so young and how thankful I am for that. It was interesting to read the benchmarks in your journey....lots to think on. Happy happy day. Angels are headed your way this morning ps

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 14, 2021:

Happy Birthday! Your description is so appropriate and gives us so much to reflect on. Aim for 100+ and live full and meaning years looking forward. I was really impressed yesterday at how William Shatner is still vibrant at 90. I hope to be like that and hope you will be too!

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 14, 2021:

Congrats and Happy Birthday, Bill. You have recapped your memories very vividly presenting a picturesque life's journey through different stages. It will be a good guide to all of them who will be traveling through those stages of life.

My responsibilities started from my 15th year itself after my mother's death, but I was good-spirited with great expectations till the age of 30 or so. My marriage took place in my 23rd year itself with no dates. And, got both children within 4 years. Thereafter, slowly, I began realizing that there are limitations all around me. I had to keep content with whatever was available and, so on, the journey passed through many hurdles with tensions and adjustments. Now, I reached 70 on 16th July. So I am three years younger than you.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 14, 2021:

Am 70 now and can relate to every bit of what you've said here. Sometimes, I wish I could live it all over again but that is not a good road to go into. Keep enjoying life, Bill. The next years will still be our best.

Rosina S Khan on October 14, 2021:

Happy Birthday, Bill. You are a treasured member here at HP. So naturally. I would wish you a long life full of happiness, love, and peace. Loved the article a lot.

Centfie from Kenya on October 14, 2021:

What an incredible autobiography. For those of us hoping to get to 73 someday, this is packed with wisdom.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 13, 2021:

With all that said, happy birth day to bill buc...and many happy returns!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 13, 2021:

Bill

What a tremendous article.

Don't you hate it when that mail starts rolling in reminding you that old age is just around the corner.

It never seems to fail. Each year brings us more and more...one blink and everything changes.

I wish I had that bold courage from my younger days.

Maybe I could forge ahead without stumbling over my feet.

Life's been a bit tough here lately. It seems around each corner there is a new reality waiting to stop me in my tracks.

Try as it might...I won't let it keep me down.

Life is to live and that's what we've got to keep doing.

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Birthday.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on October 13, 2021:

Time and tide wait for none and just as the rising sun is beautiful so is the setting sun. My best wishes to you sir, on your birthday, many more to come.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 13, 2021:

Happy Birthday Bill. Wish you many more years of good health and happiness.

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. When we say, age is just a number, I think we say it, for people like you. I appreciate your enthusiasm for life, and the positivity you spread around. You are an inspiration to many of us.

Thank you for being there. My best wishes are always with you and your family.

Thank you for sharing.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on October 13, 2021:

Wow, Bill! I'm impress, and a bit depressed. You pretty much nailed it. They say youth is wasted on the young, and I'm believing that more and more lately. Happy birthday again.

nicey on October 13, 2021:

Happy new birthday

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on October 13, 2021:

We're so glad you're in our world! Happy birthday. All the best wishes for your personal New Year!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 13, 2021:

A very happy birthday to you! I really got into this reflection though some of the nuances are not my reality. However, the aches and pains seem to be universal. I'm at that 67 reflections, enjoying every moment God gives me from here on. I don't get to go see those places far away but I do get to do what I do every day. Share the art that floats my boat. Enjoy your day with loads of cake and ice cream!

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 13, 2021:

Happy birthday, Bill! Wishing you many joys in the days ahead of you! Those of us who have lived multiple decades can easily relate to your musings about how quickly time passes.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 13, 2021:

Happy Birthday, Bill! I apologize for not getting a card out to you this year. Time flies, then you blink your eyes and another year has gone by.

I enjoyed this reflection tremendously. I relate to so much of what you said here.

Enjoy your special day, my friend.

Lots of Love,

Sha

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 13, 2021:

Happy birth day to you' Bill. And many happy returns! May your life span continue to increase by the grace of God.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 13, 2021:

Happy Birthday, Bill! Your reflections are interesting. Time is a strange phenomenon, as you've described very well in your article.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 13, 2021:

Happy Birthday, Bill. One more trip around the sun and these past 12 months have been quite an experience. I'm in awe of what you have done in that year; I'm in awe of you.

May you have many more years full of good health, happiness, and love.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Misbah, when I was 29, my God, I didn't think today would ever come. lol And here it is, sharing it with a good friend like you. Thank you and blessings always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Thank you very much, Vidya! I appreciate you taking the time to spend a moment of my birthday with me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Thank you Verlie, and welcome back to us.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

I'm in shock, Bill! It just doesn't seem possible that this young kid is 73. lol Thank you, Bill!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Just a bit, right, Pamela? Not the whole thing...maybe just one day...that isn't asking for much, is it? :) Thanks my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

It doesn't seem possible, does it, John? I wish there were mulligans in life. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Thank you so very much, Liz! I am honored by your comment.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Rebels. on October 13, 2021:

Happy Birthday, dear Mr. Bill. May God bless you with good health and success. Amen! Thank you for sharing this. Believe me, you've aged wisely and gracefully. I still have 44 years to be 73. I hope someone says these things to me when I turn 73. Hope keeps alive and time flies. Chuckle!

Blessings to you and your family.

VIDYA D SAGAR on October 13, 2021:

You are so right Bill, time simply flies. It seems only like yesterday when we were racing to balance a career, family and social life. Now we have memories and photographs , trying to find new purpose, new goals, new friends to help us keep going. Great article, I enjoyed reading it. Have a wonderful birthday, stay blessed.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on October 13, 2021:

Oh gosh I feel ya Bill.

Bottom line, if I may quote from the Bard his self:

“To love that well which thou must leave ere long.”

— Sonnet 073

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 13, 2021:

Happy Birthday, Bill. It does go by in the blink of an eye. I ask myself constantly, where did the time go, and how did this happen?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 13, 2021:

The last I remember you were 72, so I think a Happy Birthday Bill! is in order.

I related to much of what you wrote, probably due to our similar ages. I appreciate you sharing your memories. I also wonder how time passed so quickly.

Where did it go? If I could just go back a bit??

Hope you are having a good day.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 13, 2021:

Thank you for sharing this journey, Bill. I scratch my head in wonder at how fast the years fly by…it all seems like just yesterday.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 13, 2021:

This is a skilfully written piece that resonates on so many levels. It is an inciteful, occasionally humorous, but overall realistic commentary on the ages of life.

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