This Old House: May 1999

This Old House

It hasn’t been many years since I bragged that I could do pretty much whatever I wanted. My minor aches and pains plus some slight decline in energy and motivation really didn’t slow me down if I set my mind to a task. And nine years ago on a chilly May morning, we had ourselves a task.

I watched the backhoe tear down the outhouse that stood where our new garden now stands. (I need to get you some more pictures.)

That was the beginning of six months of hard physical work on this place that I knew at the time would not be possible for Ann and me down the road a few years. This ticking clock was a great motivator to “just do it”. Now it’s done, been done, and we’re on the backside–a fact the last birthday has written in very large letters.

Turning sixty has been a sobering milestone for me and the illusions of still being “the kid” with unlimited possibilities ahead has pretty well passed. I’ve had the feeling with this largish round number of cycles that this just might be the final approach to the end of the line. We’ve finally become “old” I realize and accept.

But I had the tiny revelation this morning that I ought not pack my bags just yet. The vision passed before me of all the years ahead spread out in a receding timeline. One of them–only God knows and He’s not telling–will be the year I die. But let’s think about the future this way:

If I live as long as my mother is today, I’ll last until 2030. If I match my father-in-law’s age, 2041; my grandmother’s when she died, 2043. There could well be an awful lot of new days out there for us.

Given those real possibilities of life expectancy, I guess I’d better get back to thinking about what it is I want to do when I grow up.

Each morning even yet is full of new possibilities–not all of the ones available on the menu ten years ago, but enough to make the selection an interesting proposition over the morning’s coffee.

And you’d think maybe 60 years of experience, skill, perspective and a smattering of wisdom could be useful for something between now and 2043.

Think I’ll fetch another cup and ponder that idea a bit.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Amazing. I turned 60 in November, yet the first time I looked at it as hanging around until 2040 (hopefully) rather than age 92 or 32 more years, was yesterday. 2040 does sound like the best way of putting it. Wanna see who can last the longest?

  2. You chose your parents well, Fred. By measurements similar to yours, my year may be 2018. *glumly stalking away* *perking up* And, my husband’s year may be 2034 which means he may have 16 years of realizing how lucky he was to have had me around. *chuckling*
    At any rate–hang in there and hang on for the ride. The downhill side is steep! ; )

  3. Those Mothers, Grandmothers, etc, are a good indication of our life expectancy, that is unless we believe our days are numbered, and think like there’s not much left in our lives. So, me thinks you should start focusing on all the possibilities your life still holds for you.

    Like me, 67 in September, and I’m just starting a new job, getting ready to put my house up for sale as soon as the market picks up, and planing my relocation back to the Blue Ridge. And I’m doing it all by myself, because I know I can.

    The sobering milestone for me, when I turned 60, was that I could do any Damn thing I wanted to do, without worrying about what anyone else thinks.

  4. Here’s a quote I find useful for me at 65, so maybe you will also find it useful at 60: “Ask yourself: If I repeat today’s action 365 times, will I be where I want to be in a year?” I wish for you the most satisfying era of your life in the next two decades.