Birthday Reflections of an Old Guy

            On the occasion of his 77th birthday, a fellow should have the right to pontificate about things he has learned during his long lifetime.

            There is ample evidence the writer did not wait for his 77th birthday to begin this process. Indeed, he may have been disbursing his wisdom by the tons for many years. That realization is prompted by memory of a conversation among several participants some time back.

            He said something like this: “You know, what we were talking about earlier prompts me to reflect…”

            At which time his granddaughter, Erin, then 18, visibly slumped in her chair and said, sotto voce as it were, “Oh my God.”

            There is nothing particularly profound about the pinballs of reflection that bounce around the brain, finally settling into a cohesive pattern. Rather, they are obvious concepts we all grasp in one way or another.

            Here are a few things I have learned about life.

            The moment you have resolved the problem that has worried your gut, another problem will take its place. Trust me. The day you get the car paid off your kid gets kicked out of school. We always find something to worry about.

            “Turn it over to God” is sage advice, but not as simple as it sounds. It requires belief, and faith, and humility, and persistence. Make no mistake about it, though, this God Stuff is real. Proof? Look around you. Your neighbors who are more at peace – not necessarily constantly happier, for happiness is a fickle visitor – are those who buy into the God Stuff.

            A cradle Catholic who believes most of what that grand institution teaches – however, the ban on birth control, exclusion of women priests, and clerical celibacy are among teachings that make no sense to me  – I list as one of my main spiritual experiences the non-denominational Walk to Emmaus under the supervision of the Upper Room of the United Methodist Church.

            God, Family, Job is a priority roadmap to a better life.

            Oh, and I don’t know when it happened, but my life got really better when I somehow learned, later rather than earlier, that the world is not all about me. What a relief!

            There is the very important distinction between what we are and who we are. David Brooks is a writer I admire. His current thesis concentrates on virtues, resume virtues vs. eulogy virtues. The former deal with job skills – a man or woman may be a promotional genius, fashion designer, excellent salesperson, marvelous carpenter, financial genius.

            Eulogy skills are those mentioned at the funeral. He was kind, honest, capable of love. He truly cared about other people. Those with these virtues, Brooks says, radiate inner light, are deeply good, listen well, make you feel funny and valued, are often found looking after other people.

            When all is said and done, what counts? The obvious conclusion for all who reflect on life follows this pattern: I have experienced a lot of satisfaction from possessing cool stuff, like nice autos, and comfortable digs, and exciting travel, but coming down the homestretch, when it comes to the “what counts?” question, it’s a no-brainer. The always loving and ever patient Roberta who has endured 55 years with me, Cathy, Mike, Julie, Sheri and the grandchildren and great grandchildren who give me immeasurable joy.

            Many close, highly valued friends are whipped cream on life’s sundae.

            How helpful it would have been to have reached these conclusions at age 30 rather than at this late date. But that’s life.

            For those of you who are still with me, thanks for taking the time to read the reflections of a 77 year-old with time on his hands. Oh, and this. Erin? There will be a pop quiz, sweet girl.