In the blink of an eye, or so it seems, the first months of the new year have become fodder for historians. When coupled with the impending 50th birthday and what we experienced last year the general theme as of late seems to be change and how to cope.
Meditations such as these often lead into the deep shadows of despair. To avoid this pitfall I have found perspective is crucial and the best way to keep it in proper focus is to listen to those who have weathered a few more storms than me and have come through the other side with a smile.
It also helps with an occasional reminder about just how short life is and what is really important. A few weeks ago this point was hammered home when Bob “Boze” Bell, owner and editor of True West magazine collapsed from a heart attack.
In the early 1960s he was part of a high school band here that went so far as to play at the state fair. A farewell reunion of sorts was scheduled for a Saturday evening at the old Elks Lodge in the historic district of Kingman.
The band was short a key member as couple of years ago Wendel Havatone, a local legend of sorts, died in Alaska. In spite of this the event morphed into a reunion of sorts as former and long time residents planned for the evening.
Two weeks ago, as the band practiced Wipeout, Bell collapsed over his drums. The concert went on but with a subdued note. Bell is recovering.
On Saturday I invested $35 in my good mental health by buying a birthday lunch for Mr. Fleming who has just turned 89. To ensure the binoculars were properly focused on life and all the changes that accompany it my son, fast closing in on 20, was in attendance as was Bill, who is perched between my fifty and Mr. Fleming. It was a delightful and refreshing lunch gathering.
In spite of illness and a body that just isn’t willing to do what his mind says it can he smiles. This, he says, is the secret to a long life of happiness.
Stare them down when you have to, be prepared to back it up if the stare doesn’t work and then smile to turn an enemy into a friend. His second bit of advice was to see change as opportunity, as a beginning and not the end.
Building on that conversation I talked with HP, a truly amazing 93 year old, this morning. If HP can’t inspire you to face the future with excitement then I do not know who can.
After a lifetime spent working on vehicles and equipment he can recite specifications for vehicles produced by companies that are not even historical footnotes, is currently resurrecting a Model T Ford from absolute scrap and assorted pieces for a planned drive back to Tennessee, and is seldom home as his skills in breathing life into ancient engines makes him a hot commodity among local collectors.
Though he adores the Model T he is fascinated by all manner of vehicles, particularly those produced by Citroen. Other favorites include Auburn, he has a 1931 model he bought in 1938, Chrysler products of similar vintage, cars built by Saab, GM built cars of the 1970s, and Cadillacs built in the past few years.
As our conversation turned towards the changes swirling all about us his advice was simple and comforting. Don’t make mountains out of mole hills, don’t focus to long on what is wrong because it will distract you from what is good, and don’t spend to much time focusing on the past because you will miss the opportunity that is the future. Most importantly don’t look for reasons to be angry because you will find it.
Though this has often been my creed there is a tendency to drift into that world where the glass is perpetually half empty. So, with those thoughts in mind and my perspective restored I turn towards facing an uncertain future with a bit more certainty as well as the excitement of knowing it will be shared with my best friend, my wife.
We met 26 years ago on April Fools Day and married a year and a half later. I still had the bark on but it seems she saw something in that gnarled and twisted old wood. Every day I give thanks that she never gave up on me even when there was ample opportunity.
In closing I leave you with this. The United States is symbolized by the eagle. I choose the Edsel for my post fifty life.
It was introduced the year I was born. It was brought forth with great promise and fanfare. The world didn’t share the enthusiasm of its creators though it was a relatively solid and dependable vehicle. Now, it is considered a classic, an icon.