There is only one way to live a long life, and that is to age. And there is only one way to age–with a smile. If you are able to laugh at yourself, you’ll never cease to be amused. After all, you’re only old once.
I’m button–burstingly proud to announce that I’ll soon turn seventy-eight years of youth. Now that I’ve long ago passed through the portal of my biblical threescore years and ten, I’ve reached the point in my life when I have stopped lying about my age. Rather, I brag that I am so full years. I’m no longer a spring chicken; I’m a winter chicken. I’m no longer wet behind the ears; I’m dry behind the years. I’m no longer knee high to a grasshopper; I’m sky high above a grasshopper. I’m not a has–been. I’m an about–to–be. Yay! Yippee! Huzzah! Woo–hoo! What a ride!
Some of us try to turn back our life’s odometer. Others of us want people to know why we look this way. We admit that we have bumps and dents and scratches in our finish and the paint job is getting a little dull. And sure, the fenders are too wide to be in style and our seats are sagging. The battery no longer holds a charge, and the headlights have dimmed. The hoses are brittle, and much of the original tire tread is worn away. The transmission stays in low gear and doesn’t easily shift to high. We don’t convert our fuel as efficiently as we used to, and climbing any hill is liable to cause sputtering. And whenever we sneeze or cough, our radiator seems to leak.
But you know what? We’ve traveled many, many miles, and some of the roads weren’t paved. Wisdom and laughter are our shock absorbers. We’ve become classics.
And we’re not alone: This year, 2016, 530 million men and women worldwide are sixty–five or older, including more than one out of every eight people (13.4 percent) in the United States.
While growing older is mandatory, feeling old is optional. Attitude is ageless. More than two millennia ago, the Greek playwright Sophocles wrote, “One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.” Only at sunset is the day truly golden. The later the hour of the day, the longer the shadow you cast.
The poet Robert Browning wrote, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first was made.” Let us revel in the best years of our lives.
You’ll never be younger again than you are right now! You may be over the hill, but that’s better than being under the hill–and it’s not till you’re going downhill that you really pick up speed! Birthdays are good for you; the more of them you have, the longer you live. There is only one way to live a long life, and that is to age. And there is only one way to age–with a smile. If you are able to laugh at yourself, you’ll never cease to be amused. After all, you’re only old once.
Now that I am full of years and white of hair and the evening star glows in the sky, now that my sere, my yellow leaf falls from bare, ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang, I find myself filled with one overmastering emotion:
Gratitude – for my wife Simone van Egeren and the saucy Holland days I have so loved with her; for family, which now embraces seven grandchildren; for enduring friendships; for an unslakeable thirst for learning; for the joy of teaching at Oasis and changing the world one student at a time; for the privilege of sharing my thoughts and emotions in this space; and for the astonishing gift of life: what it has been and what it will become. Hurrah!
About the author
Guest author Richard Lederer, Ph.D., has been teaching language and history classes at Mission Valley Oasis in San Diego for almost twenty years. He is the author of more than fifty books about language, history, and humor, including his best-selling Anguished English series and his current books, Amazing Words, Lederer on Language, and Challenging Words. Dr. Lederer’s syndicated column, “Lederer on Language,” appears in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, and he is a founding co-host of “A Way With Words” on Public Radio. He has been named International Punster of the Year and Toastmasters International’s Golden Gavel winner.