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I have been thinking about aging recently. I guess that is no surprise considering my age. I think it also has to do with losing my mom in March. It is that time for our generation that, if we were lucky enough to have our parents until late in life, that we face the inevitable event of losing them. It is not at all a pleasant thing to contemplate, or to do, but it is part of the cycle of life.
It is hard to believe that the referee is about to blow the whistle starting the fourth quarter of my life. Of course, I’m being optimistic, that whistle might have been blown years ago. In any case that time has come and now we know how quickly it goes by. At times I feel like that wise guy that hung out at the Parrish Street Pool in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Other times I am quite aware of my age. I’ll look down at my hands and see the large veins, the three heavy tendons and, of course, the rattle snake like skin.
I also now spend time pondering how to keep it going, how to extend my life for a long as possible and have years full of vitality. When you’re young and immortal, you don’t give much thought to your health, but it is part of the game plan in the fourth quarter of life. It’s no secret; we all know what has to be done.
I won’t go on again about my methods of diet and exercise. I have rattled on about that enough already. I will just mention two phrases. The first is the classic, “Use it or lose it.” The human body acts opposite of other things. You cannot preserve strength, stamina, and endurance, by not using it. You have to use it in order to keep it. As we get older we lose strength every year. The average 40 year old can’t do more than twenty pushups and, late in life, he or she can’t carry a bag of groceries. The only way to avoid this is to do strength training, and this is especially important for women. The other phrase is, “What you put in your body will either help it or hurt it.” This obvious and it becomes more meaningful as we get older. This doesn’t mean I’m going to be on a strict diet of celery and live in the gym. I have, and plan to always, pound down a foot long Philly cheesesteak and a large order fries, but I also know I won’t do it every day.
Physical fitness it only part of what we need to take care of in the fourth quarter of our lives; our mental and emotional state are just as important. My rock is Cathy. She has been with me through the years helping me, encouraging me, giving me more love than I ever hoped to have. She definitely is the quality in my quality of life. In my opinion having a good mate is key to a healthy mental and emotional state. Next is family and friends. Never underestimate the value of human interaction when comes to fending off the nightmares of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Finally, you have to keep your brain active. This is done through activity, hobbies, games, and travelling are all good ways to keep you thinking. Reading and writing engage your mind and make it work. What you have to do is exercise your mind the way you exercise your body.
All the diet and exercise doesn’t guarantee anything; they just put more odds in your favor. It’s like a game of draw poker. The older we get the more frequently we are dealt a hand. I think, based on my doctor’s reports so far, that I am generally holding three of a kind and asking for two cards. No matter how much I work at it, there is still a chance that I’ll get two cards that won’t help and the Grim Reaper will fill a straight or a flush.
I didn’t actually want to get into preaching about fitness. Yeah, I know, it’s too late to say that. I can go through the classic thoughts we all have like, “How did I get so darn old?” Just remember there is only one alternative to getting old and most of us aren’t ready for that. There are benefits to being in the fourth quarter. I am retired and I get to sit at home and listen to reports about the backups on the highway. I get to do what I want when I want, and Cathy and I can do all the things we didn’t have time to do through the years. It’s great to be alive.