Friday, August 20, 2010

Reflections on Reaching the Double-Nickel

Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it's been.
“Truckin’” — Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead

Such thoughts come to mind when one reaches milestones such as my 55th birthday, which occurs on the last day under the sign of Virgo. Not that I truck with such foolishness as astrology. For years I went through life thinking I was a Leo, born on the last day of the lion’s reign. Then some cosmological shift occurred, and now I’m a first-day Virgo, according to the newspaper feature.

My oldest daughter, Kasey, born the day after my birthday, is firmly in the Virgo camp. She turns 32. That is tough for me to wrap my arms around. I came across a photo of her while at my late grandfather’s house a few weeks ago. I shot it when she was four months old; she’s nearly toothless, bald and grinning for the camera, just adorable.

I am a bit surprised at how this has all turned out, in all aspects: personal life, career, even geography. A year ago if one had said, “Buddy, you’re going to be living in northeast Kansas by next summer,” I would have scoffed. But here I am, grateful for a job and learning new town names and highway routes. I will be interested in what winter is like. I haven’t spent a full season in cold climes since I was 12 and living my last season in New Hampshire.

But I digress. I think that comes with age as well, the tendency to head down rabbit trails. At least that is my excuse. So, with a hat-tip to one of my print heroes — Sy Syfransky, founder of The Sun, an advertising-free literary magazine — here are thoughts from my scattered mental notebook as the double-nickel beckons.

• As long as I have a porch on which to sit after work, a quiet spot outside to read while watching birds flit about the feeders, I am content. One summer evening a red fox ambled by, never seeing me, probably looking for a slow-moving rabbit. Then a few days ago, I heard a racket on the roof in the early morning while I was using the Bow Flex torture-contraption, in my unending effort to stay fit. The house I lease is built into a hillside, so the rear roof can be climbed upon by critters both four-legged and upright. I dashed outside and turned the corner just in time for the red fox and me to scare the bejeebers out of each other. It’s a close call as to which of us leaped higher. If captured on video, it would have been a YouTube hit.

I have since seen the fox perched on the roof, looking around, but he scampers off before I can get a photograph. I’ll keep trying.

• I am most grateful for being blessed with good health. I’ve had my share of bad habits over the years, shed most of them, and thus far have survived nearly unscathed the maladies of middle age. I still bounce out of bed at 6 a.m. each morning, eager to walk three miles while listening to NPR and girding myself for another day at the paper, pain-free and vigorous.

I’m still worried about January and its effect on my exercise routine. Man, I hate treadmills. I’ll probably be the short guy looking like the Michelin Man wandering around the Skyline Drive area. We’ll see.

• In my darker moments, I wonder how this ends. Who doesn’t? I have my faith, the love of my family and friends. So I don’t dwell upon it much, though it has become increasingly obvious that I am no longer infallible — as if I ever were. My prayers these days are simple, in hopes they might be answered, selfish as they may be. God, let me be able to enjoy reading and writing until the end of my days. Let my children outlive me. Let folks keep buying newspapers.

OK, I don’t really pray for that last sentiment, because that seems a bit cheeky an item to ask of God. I am pretty sure, though not convinced, that folks will keep buying newspapers in paper form for another decade, which is likely how much longer I’ll be plying this trade — and online in one form or another forever. Of course, most of my predictions about everything to do with my life, career, and even whether the Red Sox would ever win the World Series have proven wrong.

One thing I know that is true, told to me by someone long ago: What matters most in this life, in the end, is whom you loved and who loved you. In that respect I am truly blessed, here at the double-nickel of life.

Originally published in the Junction City (Kansas) Daily Union, August 21, 2010.


  1. Uh, Garry, you need to look up the proper order of the signs of the zodiac. Cancer the crab comes before Leo the Lion which is before Virgo the Virgin... So, maybe you are a Cancer?? Later, Jay in the Piney Woods.

  2. OOPS!!, My Bad, too many 'r's' in your name.


  3. Good catch, Jay. I fixed it. Thanks. You can tell I don't follow horoscopes very closely. Perhaps I should. gb

  4. Nah. Astrology? Mostly hooey :)
    This almost-56-virgo wishes you a very, very happy birthday.

  5. I love you, Dad. Happy birthday to the youngest 55-year-old I know.

  6. Gary,

    I enjoyed your reflections on the "double-nickel" milestone. (I can identify, since I am double- nickel + 2!)

    If a person is able to follow his passions--do what he feels is born to do -- that person is indeed blessed. And you are one of those people.

    (I like the fox story too!