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Reflections on 40….

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I could see the activity out my kitchen window this morning:  an SUV loaded with plastic totes full of her worldly belongings, pillows, milk crates crammed with books and electronics.  I was witnessing a late summer, late adolescent rite of passage.  My neighbor’s teenage daughter was headed for college for the first time.  For a young adult, that’s often one’s first taste of full freedom.  I know for me it was. It was startling and jarring when my parents walked away from the grassy green quads of John Carroll University in Cleveland, leaving me to fend for myself for the first time

.  We prolong childhood in the United States longer than in most other societies.  In plenty of countries, 14, 15, and 16 years is considered adult enough to be in the workforce (other than flipping burgers) and even lurching towards marriage.  In the United States, college for many is a way to squeeze four more years out of childhood. For me it was a way to squeeze 10 more years…I didn’t finish until I was 28.  

And now in short order (won’t say the day:) I’ll be 40.  FORTY??  How the heck did I get here?  So much of life is perspective.  Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is 42-years-old and all the newspapers are referring to him as very “youthful” which is heartening for me.  I watched an interview on TMZ with dearly just departed comedian Phyllis Diller.  At 94 she was still handling journalists questions like someone 70 years younger.  Life plays horrible tricks on one by altering perspective.  40 seems old to me now, but when I am 60 I’ll probably be pining for the days when I was 40.  I’m old enough to appreciate that fact now and maybe do something about it. Rare is the 20 year-old who seizes the prism of perspective to appreciate the moment.

So how do you handle aging?  Any tips?  Do you find you are happier as you get older or is all the good stuff in one’s youth?

 

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Car Wrecks…

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I’ve been in a few fender benders over the years (remarkably, none my fault).  I tallied it up the other day and here’s my total:  6.  Three of those have been with me as a passenger, not driver.  Two of the remaining three were minor bumps from behind and one was when someone hit me head-on at about 10 miles an hour (the driver was ogling some teen girls standing out on a corner advertising a car wash).  The head-on bump was a minor mishap, but it was just enough to total my aging car.  I was tallying traffic mishaps, because #6 was worse than the previous 5 combined.

Last week I was traveling with my wife, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law on a leisurely drive.  I was trying to enjoy some down-time last week (but it ended up being almost all work). However, the afternoon I spent with my in-laws exploring an island and visiting a farmer’s market was quite relaxing until on the way back home the trip took a harrowing turn.

All I remember is my sister-in-law screaming (she could see the impending doom in the rearview mirror), hearing a sickening thud, and then feeling our car skidding seemingly endlessly.  It skidded right into a lane of oncoming traffic on a busy highway and, fortunately, people swerved successfully to avoid hitting us head-on.  I am a big proponent of seatbelts, but the belts in the back of the VW Bunny were really tight..so just a minute or two before the crash, I had unbuckled my belt. I had done that about 4 times that day, unbuckling it, loosening it, and then clicking it back into place.  This time I didn’t have a chance to click it back into place, which turned out to be a good thing because the driver of a van (he told us later he had fallen asleep at the wheel) plowed into an Oldsmobile behind us and apparently it acted as a ramp sending it airborne onto our car.  The van hit our car’s roof and then landed in the road on its side.  I am in awes of that little car’s structural integrity to be able to withstand an air-borne 15-passenger van the way it did.  If that roof had really crumpled in, the results could have been horrible.  Remarkably, the sleeping driver (presumably now wide awake) climbed out of  his van unharmed.  Meanwhile, back in our car I was whipped like a ragdoll onto my brother-in-law’s lap.  He was in the back beside me.  The van’s impact was right where I was sitting and had I been buckled in, I might be typing this from a hospital bed now or maybe worse.    But other than my wife having a seatbelt burn and me a sore shoulder, we were all able to walk away.  But were were shaken up, so let’s swap stories….Have you been in a bad traffic accident before?  How did you fare?  I know we were lucky….