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STAYING YOUNG AT HEART
As long as you can admire and love, then one is young forever.
What I've dared I've willed ... and what I've willed, I'll do.
A woman who tells her age will tell anything, according to Oscar Wilde, so I have no intention of saying how old I am. But I must admit I'm no longer in the first flush of youth. In fact, name almost any World War II song, and I can probably sing it all the way through.
That gives you some idea of why I felt so foolish when I bought the motor scooter.
Even as I wrote out the check, I couldn't believe I was actually making such a reckless purchase. True, I had thought for years what fun it would be to have a motor scooter. "Whatever for?" hooted family and friends.
"To explore little back roads," I told them.
"You can do that in the car," they said. Yes, but on a scooter I'd be able to pause and look at a wildflower or listen to the gossipy voice of a stream.
"You'll get yourself killed," family and friends said. That's exactly why I'd never made a serious move toward getting a scooter. I knew as well as anyone that cars come swinging around curves and there you are, tossed in the air like a matador on the horns of a bull.
So, why then, when a friend suggested we stop at a showroom, did I find myself purchasing one of the dangerous contraptions? Granted, the little scooter was as neat and trim as a folded paper airplane, and it came in my favorite shade of blue. It was also quiet and easy to ride, the salesman assured me. But these were foolish reasons.
The real reason was that I somehow felt I had to call my own bluff. I'd said for years that I wanted one; here was my chance. If I flunked it, I had a feeling my life would begin to close down. I'd watched it happen to other people—the desirable job not taken because it meant a scary move to a new city, the exciting chance to go whitewater rafting passed up because the boat might overturn—and each time I'd seen the person's life grow narrower, more restricted, as though closing one door had slammed other unknown doors shut.
I wrote out a check for the scooter.
The next step was to apply for a learner's permit. When I handed my driver's license to the young blonde behind the desk, she checked it indifferently until she came to "Date of Birth." Her eyes leaped to my face. A derisive smile twitched the corners of her mouth. "Aren't you a little old to be joining the Hell's Angels?" she drawled.
I couldn't have agreed more the first time I took the machine on the road. I was as nervous as a squirrel's tail. Anxiously, I kept reminding myself where the accelerator and brakes were located. A car was coming up behind me so I veered over to the side. I was slipping on gravel! I stamped on the floor. Where was the brake? Why was I going so fast?
After the car passed, I found panic had frozen my hand on the accelerator. And the brakes were not on the floor but on the handlebar. As soon as I somehow figured out how to stop, I got off and walked the scooter back home.
I tried again the next day and the one after. On the fourth day, I relaxed just enough to make a delightful discovery: I could smell the countryside—the grasses and daisies and fresh mud and wild roses. And I could see their sources. The landscape wasn't a movie unreeling rapidly but a tapestry of stitched leaves and branches and blades and petals. That is, if I could drag my eyes from the road long enough to snatch a look.
In search of a safe place to practice, I discovered a long, paved lane that led to a factory. After the factory closed and on weekends, I had the road to myself to do figure-eight turns. When I grew bored with patient circling, I took off for the factory, wheeled around and sped back. Every day I went faster, leaning into curves, dipping and swooping. And when I slowed, I laughed with joy. I had no idea that hurtling into the wind, unprotected, free, could be so exhilarating.
One day, with growing confidence in my little purring machine, I ventured as far as the village two miles down-river. I put the scooter up on its stand and took a bag of leftover rolls to the river's edge to feed the ducks. I was vaguely aware of two little boys eyeing the scooter. Suddenly, one was at my elbow. "Him and me," he said, nodding toward his companion, "we'll trade you our bikes for your scooter."
I started to laugh, but his freckled face was perfectly serious. I answered gravely, "It's a handsome offer, but I'm afraid I don't have much use for two bikes."
He nodded. He could understand that. But he didn't go away. "Where do you live?" he asked. "What's your name? How fast does the scooter go? What did it cost?"
When my supply of rolls was gone, the ducks wandered off, but Brian and Lou stayed another half-hour. Something felt odd as we chatted. Then I realized it was exactly that: We were chatting. They weren't shy little boys. I wasn't a remote, grown-up lady. I was the owner of a marvelous toy, and that erased the gulf between us.
Neighbors seemed to feel the same thing. When I passed on my scooter, they smiled and waved and often called out, "How ya' doin'?" At first I thought it was because I looked so funny in my white helmet, horn-rimmed bifocals, and leather gloves and jacket on the hottest days (for protection in case I got knocked down). But when I took my eyes off the road, all I saw in their faces were warmth and a sort of vicarious pleasure in my adventure.
I knew I'd really been accepted, though, when a teenager roared by in his souped-up Chevy and yelled, "Go for it, lady!" His smile was broad and approving.
"I did!" I shouted after him. And I'm glad, I've thought a thousand times since. The scooter has indeed taken me on unexpected paths. It's brought me new adventures. But most of all, it makes me feel that all the doors of my life are still wide open. Anything is possible.
Riding it is risky, sure; I haven't changed my mind about that. On the other hand, one of the friends who was most vocal about the dangers of a scooter has fallen in the bathtub and broken her arm. Another, a widow who was going back to college until she grew afraid of being laughed at by younger students, has fallen into a deep depression.
I think of them, and I wonder if the only thing more dangerous than taking a risk is not taking it. Maybe, as Garrison Keillor has remarked, you're supposed to get reckless as you grow older. That way you keep saying yes to life. And perhaps saying yes, not being safe, is the real point of life.
In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you....
I live high in the hills and my body is getting old. One day I was out in my garden fussing with weeds and grew tired. I decided to lie back on the grass and rest like I used to when I was a small boy.
I woke up some minutes later with a neighbor I had never met leaning over me, all out of breath, asking me if I were okay. He had looked out his window two blocks up the hill and saw me lying on my back on the grass, looking, I am sure, like the victim of a stroke or heart attack, and had run all the way down the hill to check on me.
It was embarrassing, but it was also so wonderfully touching. After we had it all sorted out, he let out a deep breath and lay down on the grass beside me. We both stayed there very quietly for a while and then he said, "Thank you for deciding to take your nap out on the lawn where I could see you. The sky is such a beautiful thing, and I cannot remember the last time I really looked at it."
Random Acts of Kindness
The Age of Mystique
How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
Leroy Satchell Paige
On my fiftieth birthday, my older daughter gave me a pin that said "Fifty is nifty." I wore it to work that day, and what fun it was! All day, people kept saying things to me like, "Anita, you don't look fifty," or "Why, Anita, you can't be fifty," and "We know you can't be fifty."
It was wonderful. Now, I knew they were lying, and they knew I knew, but isn't that what friends and coworkers are for? To lie to you when you need it, in times of emergency, like divorce and death and turning fifty.
You know how it is with a lie, though. You hear it often enough, and you begin to think it's true. By the end of the day, I felt fabulous. I fairly floated home from work. In fact, on the way home, I thought: I really ought to dump my husband. After all, the geezer was fifty-one, way too old for a young-looking gal like me.
Arriving home, I had just shut the front door when the doorbell rang. It was a young girl from a florist shop, bringing birthday flowers from a friend. They were lovely. I stood in my doorway holding the flowers and admiring them, and the delivery girl stood there, waiting for a tip.
She noticed the pin on my jacket and said, "Oh, fifty, eh?"
"Yes," I answered, and waited. I could stand one last compliment before my birthday ended.
"Fifty," she repeated. "That's great! Birthday or anniversary?"
Anita Cheek Milner Excerpted from Chocolate for a Woman's Soul by Kay Allenbaugh
Strike Out or Home Run?
It ain't over till it's over.
Everyone said the Yankees would lose this game. It was the fourth game of the 1996 World Series. Now the score was 6–0 with Atlanta winning. I lay in bed half awake.
Forget it, I thought, as I turned off the radio and fell asleep. But when I awoke, I immediately turned on the radio. It was the eighth inning now, the score 6–3, the Yankees making a comeback. But what chance did they really have? the realist in me asked.
What chance did I have? I thought as I lay there in the dark. When you have had cancer, you're always fighting the statistics, always hoping for complete recovery. When you're a widow, you're always fighting against loneliness. I felt like the Yankees in the fourth game of the World Series. That night, I didn't think I had a chance, either.
And then the Yankees hit the home run with two men on base. I jumped out of bed. I ran into the kitchen and wolfed down a sandwich and had a drink. The dog thought it was time to go out and play. I let him into the backyard. The cats thought it was morning. I fed them. All the lights blinked on in the house. I was fully awake. I was shouting. I was talking aloud, as if there were others in the room. "Come on, Yankees!" I yelled.
And then they did it in the tenth inning. They put the game away. I was laughing, running around the house and jumping on the sofa, and telling the dog and the cats: "They did it! They really did it!" I had not been a baseball fan before, but I vowed I would be a Yankee fan forever, because now I understood about baseball.
My husband had been a passionate baseball fan. He would sit, sometimes by the radio, sometimes by the television. He would talk to the radio, talk to his favorite team. If they were doing well, he smiled. If they were doing poorly, he cursed the set, cursed the players, threw the newspaper on the floor. He never went through the game alone. There were always friends to call, back and forth a dozen times, through all the innings. If it was a victory, they rejoiced together. If it was a defeat, they mourned. And, of course, they went to games with hoagies and sodas packed away, enough food for a week; fathers took sons and daughters, and mothers wondered what this excitement was all about.
I was envious of my husband's baseball passion when springtime came. There was nothing outside my home and family that possessed me so fully. My husband knew baseball better than he knew me. His mother told me he had loved baseball as a boy, and the love had continued into manhood.
I never understood about my husband and baseball, about his baseball cards, about his dream to attend just one spring training camp in Florida, about the pride on his face when he wore his team's baseball cap.
I never understood about baseball until the Yankees won the fourth game of the 1996 World Series. The odds were against them. Nobody thought they had a chance, certainly not to come back from a 6–0 deficit.
There were times when the bases were loaded against them, and their pitcher threw the ball anyway. There were times when the batter was up at bat, and it looked bleak, but it was his turn, and that's all there was to it. There were times when the score turned sour, and there didn't seem to be a reason to even try, but try they did.
Many times I feel the bases are loaded in my life. The odds pile up against me. I just don't want to pitch that ball. It seems futile. But every day, I get the opportunity to pitch the ball again. The bat's in my hand, and it's my turn up at a new day. I can hit the home run if I believe it, and sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.
Those Yankees didn't care about the people who didn't believe in them, and I'm sure they didn't care about the statistics. They believed in themselves, in the game and in the unpredictability of life.
I thought about it that night, why I felt so good, so energized, why I was celebrating, why that good feeling remained with me. Now I understood why my husband loved baseball.
Life is just one big baseball game. That was the secret he knew. You never can tell what the outcome is going to be until the very last inning.
Perhaps tomorrow will be the day I hit my own home run.
Harriet May Savitz
The Long Ride
Life is like a bicycle. You don't fall off unless you stop pedaling.
Claude Pepper U.S. Congressman
Betty Olsen was just settling down to enjoy the golden years with her husband. The last of their five children was about to leave home. The couple had plans to travel. But then after thirty-three years of marriage, he sprung a little surprise on her. "I'm leaving," he announced. He had found someone else, twelve years younger.
The pain rattled her entire soul and body. Life seemed over, at least the life she had known for the last three decades. "Starting over at age fifty-five won't be easy," Betty said. But she decided it would do her no good to feel sorry for herself. So she got busy. She joined a speaking program, became a volunteer at the American Cancer Society and trained as a docent at a local art museum. She played bridge and tennis, worked at the local blood bank, and got recertified as a nurse.
But no matter how busy Betty kept, her heart remained cold and lonely. Nothing really captured her spirit. Then one day, two friends asked her to go on a bike ride. Not just any bike ride, but a metric century ride—a sixty-four-mile journey up and down the hills of Gilroy, California.
The couple didn't tell Betty, then sixty, the distance of the ride. "Or I would never have gone," she laughs. Betty had poked around town on a bike before, but that was about it.
The threesome hit the road together with a pack of other riders. As Betty huffed and puffed up the hill, she couldn't believe the breathtaking beauty of the countryside—the sage thickets, the velvet green colors of the brush and creeksides. Nothing compared to experiencing the wildflowers, the sweet, dank smell of woods, even people's front yards. That's when Betty became enraptured with biking. She had determined when her marriage came crashing down that she was going to find new frontiers, new worlds to explore, new dreams to dream. She exclaimed, "Life really begins at sixty!"
The enthusiastic novice joined two bike clubs and started to travel everywhere by bicycle. First, she biked one hundred miles in the Inland Passage of Alaska where she saw bear footprints and golden eagles in flight, and watched cruise ships from a mountaintop. The next summer she traveled to New Zealand. But these rides weren't enough for Betty. She wanted to try something more challenging. Like biking twenty-five hundred miles or so.
Her first long-distance undertaking was a cross-country ride from San Diego to Jacksonville, Florida—an eighty-mile-a-day, five-week trip. Her children were terrified, and her sister told her, "Don't do that. It's too strenuous."
Betty admits, "I, too, was uncertain I could make it!"
But nothing could stop Betty, and she had no regrets when she found herself amid towering pine trees and fields of bluebonnet lupines. "I had never seen anything like it in my life!" she observed. In addition to the awesome sights, Betty loved stretching her limits and discovering new sources of inner strength. Invigorated, she convinced her forty-three-year-old son to tag along with her on some of her shorter rides, like the fifty-mile Tierra Bella.
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Paul J. Meyer, Barbara Russell Chesser, Amy Seeger. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
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Posted December 1, 2013