Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Age - mind over matter?

For the 52nd Carnival of Genealogy - the topic is AGE - I was going to write the typical "my oldest ancestor was ..." post, or a post where "xx% of my ancestors lived to be age 70-79," and could have written an endless post about these folks that I never knew but know a lot about. Instead, I thought I'd wax philosophical about age and my life attitudes, narcissist that I am (I wonder where I got that? - my dad?).

As my readers know, I have posted about my childhood in 30th Street Memories - Part 1 and Part 2, about the house I grew up in on 30th Street, and endless posts about my parents, grandparents and lots of other ancestors, most of them upright, stable and hard-working - poor in money, but rich in spirit and family. Many of them lived to ripe old ages.

I think that Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said "And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

I've always thought of myself as young, yet I'm on Social Security. In my night dreams - I roam, I fly, I slide, I run, I play ball, I chase girls just as in the endless days of my youth (OK, I lied - I didn't chase many girls until one caught me). I still think I can throw the ball 90 miles per hour (um, maybe 70?), can run/walk for miles and miles (two is enough!), and am still thin (I have a funny mirror) with hair (yay, butch wax) - what a dreamer! When I see an old guy with white hair, I give up my seat on the trolley, I try to help them find things or lift things, etc. It's been difficult to accept the offer to sit or be helped from a younger person.

I agree with Albert Einstein too -- "People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live...[We] never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born" (in a letter to Otto Juliusburger).

It's this attitude that led me into geography, history, mathematics, science, engineering, aerospace, radio wave propagation studies, religion, baseball, and also into genealogy and family history research. Genealogy and family history enriches my knowledge about history, geography, and genetics by leading me into "green pastures" where I do not fear finding more ancestors and their exploits - I revel in the hunt and the search - being a detective to figure things out.

I disagree completely with Clarence Darrow, who said "The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children."

My parents were, in general, wonderful - I had a great childhood and education and was raised with traditional values. They (my parents) didn't interfere much in my life after I got out of school. Marriage and raising children were the highlights of my middle age, and having a loving partner, daughters and grandchildren in my retirement years are the major blessings in my current life. Life is good -- I'm essentially doing what I want to do (well, within limits...) when I want to do them.

I tend to agree with this observation by Horace Rumpole - "There's no pleasure on earth that's worth sacrificing for the sake of an extra five years in the geriatric ward of the Sunset Old People's Home, Weston-Super-Mare."

But I'm not ready for the retirement center or the grave yet - I'm having too much fun, pleasure and challenge to sit back in my recliner and watch the years go by. Genealogy is my current passion and I pursue it with enthusiasm and a sense of humor. If it gets boring or not challenging, I'll switch to something else - like chasing the women at Weston-Super-Mare.

Frankly, my outlook on life is "Life is short - eat dessert first!" and "Don't worry - be happy - your friends will wonder what you are up to."

Age is really just a number - and I'm competitive enough to try to outlive most of my ancestors and colleagues. However, I doubt that I will outlive my 9th great-grandfather, Laurence Copeland (ca 1599-1699) or my 6th great-grandfather, John Horton (1695-1795), who both lived to age 100 (approximately). [Note to readers - you just knew I couldn't resist putting something in about really old people, didn't you?]


Jasia said...

Wonderful post, Randy. I really enjoy reading about how others feel about aging. I especially like people who focus on the good things in life, what they can do and not what they can't do. Your post touched me.


Well said! You made me smile and nod my head in agreement.

Sheri Fenley said...

All that talk about dirty old men - I could have a genegasm or something!

One of the best posts you have written in a long time. Good job.

Sheri Fenley
Stockton, California