By Steve Walker
Last year I wrote a column like this one, days before my 69th birthday. Well in three weeks it will be that time again. This year the whole country will celebrate my 70th birthday as it once again lands on, Labor Day!
It averages out to every six years or so that it happens on the 1st Monday of September. Ironically, when my mother was alive, her birthday landed on Thanksgiving every so many years as well. There are advantages of having a birthday on a holiday and disadvantages. When my birthday is on Labor Day everybody thinks it is cool and wishes me “Happy Birthday.” On other days of the week, I don’t get the same response.
Who knew I would live this long? I am the same age as President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, and my friend Jaime Martinez who is only 8 days older than me. I have written about my walking the picket lines over the years with Jaime in La Prensa more than once. We still do the Caesar Chavez March every year. Next year it will be 21 years for both of us, God willing.
Growing up I was told on many occasions I would not live to be 30 years old if I didn’t change my ways. The good news for me is that most of those people who forecast my premature demise are no longer with us, God rest their souls. I must be doing something right I guess.
For those who were convinced of my untimely death, or said that things would not go well for me in my life should I survive to old age-- I say to them, like a little kid who sticks out his tongue and puts his thumbs in his ears and wiggles them, “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah nah!!” (Growing old gracefully?) I happily say they truly misunderstood me and underestimated me as well.
My father passed away at the age of 62 suffering from diabetes. His parents both died at 65 so I have out lived both my father and his parents, not so graciously.
My mother’s father and mother both passed away at 40 due to my grandmother’s tuberculosis and my grandfather’s cancer. At least my mother made it to 81! But despite all that, I am expecting to continue on and if all goes well, I will make it to one hundred years old! That is my goal, again God willing.
This past November 6th I underwent major back surgery for a herniated disc wrapped around my spine. The doctor gave me three choices: 1. die, 2. be paralyzed in a wheel chair for life, or 3. surgery. I obviously opted for choice three!!!
Losing 30 pounds after 13 days in the hospital and learning how to do simple tasks like bathing, walking up steps, getting into cars, dressing myself and other mundane tasks as well, I am recovering really quickly. My doctor tells me, “For a man of your age, you are healing well!!!”
Considering I did graduate high school against all odds, I earned a bachelor’s degree and also a Master’s degree from the University of the Incarnate Word in Education. How about that? Who would have ever imagined? Not me!
In 1981-82 I served as the President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and I was elected Justice of the Peace Pct .2 from 2009-12. I wrote the “Ask the Judge” column for two of those years for La Prensa, before writing “Just a Thought,” for the last three and a half years.
I am getting old, but the question is, “Am I growing old gracefully?” You be the judge of that. I am slowing down a little bit like most old folk, but I am still moving forward. I can still hear, see, walk, talk, and chew gum at the same time on most days. I even converse with myself when no one is around. Some of those conversations are pretty interesting. (Just kidding)
As I continue to age and apply heavy doses of Oil of Olay moisture cream on my face daily to look younger, I hope I appear to be “graceful as well as gracious.”
Anyway, as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran, former Judge and Journalist.