Saturday, May 24, 2008


On May 24, 2008, this very day, I turned sixty-five years of age, a supposed great milestone - a rite of passage in our society. I thought that it was going to be my most significant birthday and the opportunity to pause and reflect on the meaning of life. Because of these expectations and my experiences at forty and fifty, I found myself very disappointed - not even a birthday cake or candles. Had there been one it would have been the conflagration the graphic herein suggests.

This morning National Public Radio reminded me that the Brooklyn Bridge was opened to traffic on May 24, 1883 after fourteen years of construction. Friends sought to console me by relating that the young Malcolm IV of Scotland became King on May 24, 1153 while Peter Minuit bought Manhattan on Sunday May 24, 1626 from some unsuspecting and probably amused Canarsee Native Americans for the equivalent of $24 US dollars. Appropriately, the Canarsee were actually native to what is now Brooklyn, while Manhattan was home to the Weckquaesgeek Native Americans who, understandably, were not amused by the exchange nor bound by the transaction. Anyway, neither group had a concept of transferable real estate.

I knew that I shared this natal day with Gary Burghoff of MASH fame and that May 24th was also significant to luminaries like Priscila Presley, Patti LaBelle and Robert Allen Zimmerman (Bob Dylan to most). Someone else was sharing my pain. But just as things were looking up, reality kicked back in.

I had long pondered what it would feel like to transition well beyond that magic fifty years and AARP membership to the elite senior status of nearing the at least the estimation of the termination of my own mortal existence. Strange, there was no epiphany, no blaring trumpets, no startling realization of my mortality or even a glimpse into the portal of absolute knowledge.

There was nothing and then I received several phone calls and e-mails/cards from Family and Valued Friends and those meant everything. There were some major disappointments though surely not at my workplace where many acknowledged my natal day though that’s part of the fabric of a very tight and close knit Recruiting Department. There’s more camaraderie in those Recruiting folks that the entirety of the rest of the company (heck, most companies) and that’s evident when you cross the Fishbowl threshold. I am thankful to be among such a talented and sensitive group of people.

So, what has happened at this crossroads of my life?

My senior status has allowed me to apply for Part B of Medicare. I didn’t get Part A now since I already have medical coverage. That application and ultimate coverage, however, appears to be a foregone conclusion. I can start drawing Social Security next January and that will help.

I still look fairly young and heartily embrace the mantra that 65 is the new 40 and the beginning of middle age. However delusional that might be I see photos of both my grandfathers and they looked much older and were infirm by the time they achieved that seniority. If the face is supposed to reflect your temperament and life experiences (not to mention the Texas sun) then a great charade exists for I remain fairly youthful looking though impatient as ever though probably only slightly less intolerant to incompetence. I can never seem to turn it off though I manage it much better.

My hair is now mostly gray on my head though I remain ever mindful of the advice proffered by good Friend and mentor Robert “Hägar” Swanson in the late 1980’s. I still maintain a brown moustache with the help of modern chemistry. When the white in my moustache would start to show through Bob, with a gleam in his eye, would catch my eye and subtly touch his moustache, the non verbal directive to break out the For Men Only.

Both my Achilles tendons sometimes get stiff with inactivity and I can’t seem to stretch them back to some degree of submission and pliability. I know your're concerned so I’ll let you know if I’m successful.

I do not dribble (from the mouth or anywhere else) nor am I incontinent, though I find myself making several trips to the bathroom at night especially when I drink several glasses of peach iced tea or adult beverage that evening. That’s more the result of stupidity than old age and a baseball sized prostate.

I’m mostly in good shape thanks to some good Friends who pushed me over to Weight Watchers®. After a very painful muscle tear in my left shoulder a couple of years ago I gained a lot of weight. I have lost forty-four pounds since January. Thanks Bernice!

So now when Friends see me at the upcoming Glasgow, Kentucky Highland Games and Scottish Festival and the 30th anniversary of the Kingdome of Räknar they will note that I appear to have changed little in five years…

All in all, I still think that I can strap on my goalie pads and sub for Marty Turco when he has one of his bad nights for the Dallas Stars. My reaction time remains very, very quick and I do not appear to have slowed down. I honestly do feel that I could take control of the crease once again and put in a good performance.

Unlike those of previous generations I am assured that if any of my parts wear out I can (mostly) have them replaced like mountaineer Skip Yowell of JanSport and Mount Rainier fame who just had a hip replaced. He will be back on The Mountain in no time.

I now wear eyeglasses because I have to, though that’s mostly for reading and working on the computer. My hearing remains very keen though as some in close confines to me have suggested, it remains very selective. Oddly, I still can hear at very high ranges and the sometimes out of whack power transformer and security systems can even elicit pain.

I don’t appear to be slower in my mental processes and my speech remains youthful. One of my recent new recruits learned my real age and almost lost it. She thought I was in my twenties. Really!

My memory remains pretty keen and though I have occasional lapses when trying to remember a rarely used word or title to a book, movie or song, that’s not a new development. I seem to have retained most of my academic learning and professional training allowing me to mostly keep up and maintain leadership roles.

Some folks have asked me if I have ever thought of slowing down and retiring. I always provide the strong assurances that I have no intention of retiring, offering a work till I drop philosophy.

A Friend reminded me recently that you are as old as your attitude. Medical researchers have found that positive attitude is a powerful predictor of outcome of any aspect of growing old. Elderly folks with attitudinal deficiencies had a much greater risk of becoming disabled and even dying than seniors with very positive attitudes. Researchers have concluded that the older the person, the more important issues like attitude and emotional state become. I maintain that’s the case no matter how old you are.

So, I really don’t have the option to roll over and play dead. First, that’s not who I am, and not part of the Buxton, “Do it with they might” mantra. Secondly, I have to continue to work for a living. Thirdly, I want to remain in an active, vibrant and meaningful lifestyle. When I leave this mortal plane I want to be remembered. I want to have made a difference. I know that there are still many opportunities and challenges awaiting me.

I don’t want to lie around and smell the roses and if I had all the money on earth, I wouldn’t contemplate that option. I absolutely believe that we all have an obligation to make the world a better place. That means volunteering and stepping up in your community and being part of the solution, not the problem. Most of my Friends are doing just that. That’s the only footprint any of us should leave.

Some say that our generation has already done our thing. We are no longer contributing to society and are therefore using up valuable resources that should be reserved for the younger generation. Well, while I know that I’m not going to live forever and perhaps not for another twenty years, I intend to remain a productive member of society and the human race as long as I can. God help the one who tries to push me out of my tipi.

I will continue to improve myself, to continue to live my dreams, grow and maintain those positive aspects of my life, hopefully restore some broken relationships and serve the interests of my Family and Community. My glass is almost full.

Charlie Daniels who is a great musician and turning into a not so shabby writer contemplated his 65th birthday in 2001. Charlie spoke for me and many in my generation when he stated,

“There are no bad days. Of course, some are better than others but each one is a precious possession, a unit of time, a gift from God to be lived in whatever way we choose. When all is said and done we can not blame the circumstances of our lives on any other person than the one you see in the mirror each morning. From where I stand my advice to all would be that if you’re not happy with your life, do something about it.”

Positive attitude is the life energy that flows through every individual member of a Team that ultimately leads them to success and greatness. Nothing of lasting value will ever be achieved without a positive mental attitude. Did I say that 65 is the new 40?


Ned Buxton

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