“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

 C. S. Lewis, author and poet

Ohio University, Fall 1973

The first class I signed up for was creative writing. It was also the first class I failed. But I was determined to be called a writer so a year later I took that same class with the same instructor. This time I crossed the finish line with a B. I pressed on and in time earned a degree in communication. What followed was a less than stellar career with the government. Now fast forward forty years.

 Ohio University, Fall 2013

When I found out that, after age 60, you can take classes free at any state university in Ohio I bought a new box of crayons, grabbed my Snoopy lunch box and got on the school bus. Wow! As a wise man said long ago, “The only place change is not guaranteed is a vending machine.” Forty years ago we worked with pencils, pens, and typewriters. Now there were computers everywhere. And in 1973 if you wanted to call someone, you got in line at a telephone booth. Now everyone was talking on a cell phone or bouncing their thumbs off a gizmo. My biggest concern was how this senior citizen would get along with students slightly younger than my children and slightly older than my grandchildren. It became apparent very soon that I had wasted time thinking about it. The years between us quickly melted away and the party got going.

I had a boat load of fun in a class celebrating the history of television and film comedy. What could be more fun than going to school with my life long role models, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello and a whole crew of other zany folks! I studied play writing and enjoyed making a fool of myself in an acting class. After a semester in a painting studio, I had three projects featured in the student art show. But my crowning achievement came in writing class. It was there I put the finishing touches on Buddy Bloom Wildflower, (A Tale of Struggle and Celebration) This book teaches the value of adversity, the joy of friendship and the celebration of life.

While enjoying the excitement of being the not so new kid in class I made a few mistakes with the balance in my piggy bank. Discovering I needed to go back to work, I was told that one of the best part-time jobs for seniors was working in the schools as an educational assistant. So if you’re looking for me now, you’ll find me in yet another classroom – much of the time working with special needs children.

There is still plenty to learn and lots of adventure waiting for this not so new kid in the giant classroom called life. And I intend to enjoy every minute.



“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Mark Twain, humorist

I have been part of the running community since 1986 – 5ks, 10ks, half and full marathons. And like just about everything else the fine art of running has changed.

With the magic of new fabrics, the clothes have gotten warmer when they need to be and cooler when the weatherman changes the forecast. The colors have gotten brighter and the patterns bolder.  And the shoes are just as magic with new styles to make you run faster.  Technology has steadily added dozens of gadgets and gizmos to the mix. None of this is a surprise. As a frustrated consumer pointed out, “The only place change is not guaranteed is a vending machine.”

But there is one big change that gets my attention every time I enter a race. And there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it. I’m talking about age groups.

I began my running adventure in the 35 to 39 age bracket.

Since then I’ve shuffled my way through






Now my home is 65-69.

The late great and very funny Phyllis Diller made these observations on the subject of aging.

“You know you’re getting old if they have discontinued your blood type”

“You know you’re old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes, and you’re barefoot.”

“You know you’re old if your walker has an airbag.”

So far none of those things have been said to me but I’m prepared with a response if it happens.

I’m not sure who said it first but I agree it’s the best way to think about the clock and calendar, “Don’t count your years, make your years count.”

At most running events, near the registration table where you pick up your number and t-shirt, there is another table. This is where trophies or medals are lined up for first, second and third place winners in each age group.

When the race is over and they pass out the awards, they begin with the youngest age group. I remember when I first started running, at the award presentation the race director would make a big deal about the oldest runner in the pack. This is usually the final award of the day. Now I’m getting closer to that end of the table where the medal for the oldest runner rests.

In the movie True Grit staring John Wayne and Glen Campbell, Wayne needs rescued and he is cussing at the fact Campbell is dead. Suddenly he hears a voice. It comes from Campbell, “I ain’t dead yet you bushwhacker, hang on.”

Wayne gets rescued and Campbell dies shortly thereafter.

Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking said “Live your life and forget your age.”  

That’s my message cowboys and bushwhackers, “I ain’t dead yet – and I look forward to seeing you at the next race.




My Mother had eleven brothers and sisters. Uncle Frank was the only one still living. When his wife Elsie died he knocked on my door and asked if he could move in. I didn’t want him there but what was I going to say to a lonely old man?

It turned out I was wrong about the lonely part.


*            *            *


“How long have I been living with you, Joey?”

“Three very entertaining months, Uncle Frank. So far you’ve been arrested for trespassing on government property, disorderly conduct, driving without a license and skinny dipping in a public fountain. Did I miss anything?”

“Yes. First, I wasn’t trespassing, I’m a taxpayer. Second, I didn’t start the fight. Third, everyone else was drunk so I had to drive. Fourth, it was hot and we needed to cool off. And by the way, you left out the most important part. I’m having fun.”

“I hope you’re finished, I have to go to work.”

“No, Joey. I’m not finished. I need a favor.”

“What kind of favor?”

“Her name is Tracey.”

“What kind of favor, Uncle Frank?”

“I want you to go out with her.”


“Tracey is my girlfriend’s niece.”

“So why do I need to go out with her?”

“You’ll like Tracey.”

“What does she look like?”

“She has a good job.”

“Uncle Frank, I asked you what she looks like.”

“She drives a nice car.”

“For the last time, what does she look like?”

“She has blue eyes, really pretty blue eyes.”

“She’s fat, right.”

“She has a nice personality.”

“She’s fat.”

Now I had a tough decision to make. Did I want to shoot him? Did I want to stab him? Did I want to strangle him? How about all three?


*            *            *


Friday night, I’m ready for my date with Tracey. Uncle Frank shows up with a shopping bag.

“What’s going on?”

He pulls a shirt out of the bag.

“Here, put this on.”

“What’s wrong with the shirt I have on?”

“Nothing is wrong with it if you’re a monk.”

I tried the shirt on. It was purple with lightning bolts.

“Now you got the smoke rolling – you look great.”

“Remember your promise. This is the first and last date with Tracey.”

“One more thing, Joey.”

“Now what?”

“Clip that hair in your nose or we’ll have to put a hook on it and go fishing.”

“Good bye, Uncle Frank”


     *            *           *


He was right about her eyes.  They were pretty, very pretty. I was right about her size. She was fat, very fat.


    *            *            *


The next morning when I came home Uncle Frank was sitting at the kitchen table.

My shirt, the one he gave me, was torn and blood stained. My face had stitches under one eye.

“Good morning, Uncle Frank.”

He took a long time answering.

“Let me guess,” he said. She didn’t like the shirt.”

“No, Uncle Frank. She loved the shirt.”

“Then what happened?”

“We were sitting in the restaurant. I said I’d be right back. On the way to the restroom a guy I knew from work who saw me walk in with Tracey held his arms apart as far as they would go. Then he said is that what they mean by a double date? So I punched him in the face. The only problem was I didn’t notice the two friends he had with him. I spent the rest of the night in the hospital and at the police station.”

“Maybe you should try a different restaurant.”

“Maybe you should get out-of-town.”

“Don’t worry, Joey. You know what they say.”

“No, Uncle Frank. I don’t know what they say.”

“They say One Monkey Don’t Stop The Show.”

“What does that mean?”

Uncle Frank stood up and saluted.

“I have a new girlfriend.”

“What happened to the one that helped create the mess I got into?”

“I caught her showing the tattoo on her butt to my best friend and now she is my ex-girl friend and he is my ex-best friend.”

“I hope your new girlfriend doesn’t have a niece.”

“Let me put it this way, Joey. She’s gonna love your new shirt.”


*            *            *


I killed Uncle Frank.

*            *            *


“Wake up, Joey. Wake up.”

“Uncle Frank, you’re alive.”

“Of course I’m alive. You must have had a nightmare.”

“What time is it?”

“Time for you to get ready. Here’s your new shirt.”


“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you”?

William Arthur Ward, writer


After six weeks in a cooking class at The Ohio State University, my crowning achievement was to walk away knowing I could bake a batch of date nut bars.

“Care to try one? No? Okay, maybe later.”

Even though, for reasons I haven’t figured out yet, I didn’t learn how to cook like Betty Crocker and Sara Lee, I did enjoy the class. While exploring the pages of a cookbook, I ran across some quotations.

I guess you would call them food for thought. My favorite was this:

“Our days are identical suitcases, all the same size, but some people pack more into them than others.”

While enjoying my next meal in a restaurant, I began to ponder what was in my suitcase.

Before deciding, I took another look at the quote, “Our days are identical suitcases…” it began. It made no mention of how many days (suitcases) we will have. No guarantees. No one knows when they’re packing and unpacking for the last time. If I were taking a vacation, I said to myself, and could only take one suitcase instead of 20 – I know I would spend considerable time figuring out what to take and what to leave behind.

Dreams, goals, time with friends and family – those are in there right beside clean underwear and a toothbrush. When it comes to words, I hope my suitcase holds plenty of thank yous and most important, I love yous. A sense of humor is essential no matter what kind of traveling you’re doing. I put it next to forgiveness. After looking at the quote again, I realized there are some items in my suitcase that I really don’t need. They are worry, resentment, anger, and guilt.

At this point I should have been ready to close the lid and get on with the rest of the day, but something inside me wouldn’t let it rest. I decided to take a survey among friends, family, and coworkers. I handed out 25 questionnaires with the quote and asked people to tell me what it meant to them – what was in their suitcase and what was missing.

Five people didn’t have time in their suitcase to answer. Twenty-four hours didn’t seem long enough but that is all we get in a day. Of the 20 who did respond, most had trouble getting the lid shut and fun seemed to be the first thing tossed out.

Work, school, and other obligations certainly have their place. I vote for a little less anxiety and a little more joy. Come on folks, not all the news is bad. It’s not a round trip ticket we’ve been given.

Smell the roses.

What’s in your suitcase?


“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

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