If you flip a coin, it lands either heads or tails. Life usually doesn’t occur as either heads or tails. Dark or light? Old or young? Life occurs in the gray. The Yin and Yang. Maybe, life is the coin landing on its side.
Dear friend Cheryl called me out: I often refer to myself as the “old man”. I do. She poignantly reminded, “Old as compared to what?” She had lost someone very dear when she was young. Many who remain would give anything for that “oldie” to be hanging around today.
Thank you, Cheryl. I got the message. I’m grateful for my years lived. I value what I’ve gained from those I love. I’m the greater man because of them. Like Cheryl, I’ve lost people I loved who didn’t live to be my age now, 56 years. Two remain in my heart always.
I remember Burnell, the quiet strong Black man who was the great father, husband and friend. Burnell died of cancer at 45 years old. Burnell told me the story of his wife, the love of his life. He said to her, “You know I’m never gonna get tired of looking at you.” Love is timeless, forever. I loved Burnell too.
My cousin Harvey passed away at about 34 years-old. He was finishing up his oral surgery residency when he died of acute anemia. Harvey was my favorite cousin. He was 6 years older, a free-spirit following his own poetry. Totally brilliant. Harvey also drew the best Batman when we were kids at our grandparents’ house. I loved him.
I remember staring at his picture at the funeral services. I experienced the deep sense of sadness within. Harvey lived life fully. Yet, he would never get to do what he loved to do. Harvey would never get to be older.
I’m old in that good sense: I get my mortality. So I do my best to make a difference for others within my finite time. Others shall define my legacy. Hopefully, it’s not as the “Old Guy”. I try to live in the present, for the most part. I love new music, new movies, new ideas, and new purpose. What matters is now. The past is nice but needs to remain there.
I love being around young people at work or training kids and teens at the Aikido Dojo. Many of my friends, who are ‘older’ like me, keep me young because they think young.
I’m not the mentor who says, “You know back in my day…” In my conversation with the 24-year-old Lieutenant at work, I said, “Jon, that’s good. What if we look at it this way?”
Growing older I look for what’s possible. Like 80-year-old Sensei Dan would say to me, “Make it work.” I got from Sensei that we stay young by being around young people who want to become greater. Sensei taught me years ago.
I have the privilege of passing on what I got from Sensei to the younger and greater. Older fosters one’s legacy. Older keeps me honest. Older helps me see the world as new.
Older knows, too, what my body can and used to do. Aging physics are undeniable. Yet, Sensei Bobby reminds me that my mind can still evolve and heal my body. I can still become greater in my own way. Possibilities continue to arise.
So Cheryl, I’m not the “old guy”. I’m just getting older. In the time left, I wish to make a difference. When life is complete I want to be the empty vessel. I would have given away what others like Sensei, Mom, John, and you have gifted to me. I’m grateful for the life lived.
My hope is that in some small way I leave the world a little better off than when I came into it. I honor all those I’ve had the privilege to participate with in life. I’m forever grateful for who you are for me.
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