A couple of days back, we had an intruder in our house. Nothing bad came from it, just some rocked perspectives and tainted illusions. So, what happened? I'm gonna tell ya. We have this full length mirror on the back side of a door, and I seldom ever use it. Not that I don't need to, it's just that as I've gotten older, and have left the work force, I just don't care what I look like. I attend a country church, and if I were to wear something besides blue jeans I would stand out. Few shirts don't go with blue jeans. So, it's not that I don't care what I look like or dress like, it's that on the average day the only person that ever sees me is the lady at the post office, and she doesn't care either.
Back to the intruder. I happen to walk by this mirror, and without paying attention, I realized there was an old guy in our house that was dressed just like me. I backed up, looked, and wondered, what happened? Who was that old guy in a camoflauged t-shirt, a pair of blue jeans that should have been replaced last summer, a grey beard and a bald head? I don't know what happened. So he and I stood there and talked for a while. That guy is really funny, smart and good looking, too. Then I realized I was looking at the picture of my brother on the wall. Ok. Back to reality. I'm pushing 65 years old and live out in the middle of no where. Over the last 25 to 30 years I have had multiple surgeries, big surgeries. Most recently it was having my lower back repaired. I just can't do what I used to do. So, looking at the bell curve of my life, I can tell by the slope that I'm not going to be doing more in the future, but I'll be doing less.
Let me talk about that a little bit. When I was much younger, about the time Fern and I got married, I was around 30+ years old. All of my tools were hand tools. I did not own an electric tool, or one that used an air compressor. When I needed to cut a sheet of plywood, I grabbed the old crosscut/rip saw and went to town. Time goes faster if you know the words to Row, Row, Row Your Boat. If you've ever used a handsaw, then you'll know what I mean. All of the holes I drilled were done with a brace and bit. And I'm one of those kind of fellas that knows how to use a jack plane. Good tools will last you a life time. Always buy quality tools.
But, my right elbow? It's not going to last a life time. It blew out sometime when I was around 40, I guess. So cutting a sheet of plywood and singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat, were out of the question. Off to Sears we go, remember, always buy good tools. Sears used to make first class, quality tools, key word there is used to. I got a half horse skill saw, a half horse hand drill, and I've still got them today, and I still use them when I have heavy cutting needs. Battery operated tools hadn't rolled around yet. A few years later, Fern and I were going to build a house. Well, I can't drive nails anymore because of my elbow. I discovered the benefits of an air compressor, remember, good tools. That Stanley nail gun, pop, pop, pop? Framing is done, walls are up, that half inch crown stapler, all the sheathing is up, even used it to attach all the shingles. See where things are going here?
Let me regress a little bit. My earlier piece of property out in the middle of no where.....you know all those corner posts that you have to put in the ground? That's where your post hole digger comes in handy. You do know what a post hole digger is, don't you? I've still got one, not exactly sure where it is, but I've got one. Now when I need to put a post in the ground, I use my tractor with an auger implement. When you guys are thinking about buying a tractor, you can't buy too big of a tractor, but you can buy one that is too small. Some free advice here. When you have decided on the perfect tractor to meet your needs, now we're not talking about plowing 5000 acres here, we're talking about homestead tractors. Okay, when you've got that perfect sized tractor you want, get the next bigger size. You will be thankful. And I hate it when people say this, but, trust me.
Back to the story here. We got our house built. I'm now using electric tools, air compressors, life's pretty good. Occasionally my elbow will flare up, an ice pack, a heating pad and a bunch of Motrin, a couple of days later, it almost works. About that time I decide to rupture a disc in my neck. No more post hole diggers. About three or four months later, I decide to have a hernia repaired. No more 80 pound bags of RediMix. And I'm just 36 years old. But I've still got a lot of life to live, and I want to live it. Some of my dates here may be a little off, but just pretend that it's an official government financial report, dates and figures don't really mean anything, now do they. Battery operated tools are starting to show up on the scene about this time. But if you try to drill a 5/8 inch hole in a six inch deep post with the new battery operated drills, it just ain't gonna happen. Well, why don't I use my electric half horse Sears drill? Because I don't have an extension cord 1000 feet long. So, the brace and bit comes out of retirement and still works great. Only problem is, the next day, here comes the ice pack, the heating pad and the Motrin, because my elbow and the muscles in my neck are not happy at all.
Let's say now I'm pushing about 50 years old. Fern and I get this wild idea to go back to Alaska, you know, where life is easy. The first couple of months were, until I was life flighted out of Barrow, Alaska compliments of the North Slope Borough and a Lear jet. But that's a different story. Life went pretty good for four or five years in Alaska. We lived in remote places that were fairly modern. Snow built up, somebody comes along with a plow and pushes it out of the way for you. But then we get this job offer for me to be a principal in extremely remote western Alaska, right at the mouth of the Yukon River. Well, been there about six months, life is going about as good as can be expected, and I injure my lower back, a school related injury. That was about nine years ago now, and I've been suffering with that thing for nine years. But that doesn't mean that the snow didn't get shoveled, because somebody has to shovel it. In teeny, weeny bush Alaska, when you are the principal, that means you are also the cook, the maintenance man, and any other job that someone doesn't show up for that day.
Did you know that the wind blows everyday in western Alaska? Which means that the snow you shoveled yesterday, is still there the next morning. And the morning after that, and the morning after that, and everyday for, give or take, five months. I'll address that more in just a minute. So, Fern and I did that for two years, and I figured I have shoveled enough snow in my life. Then we got us a couple of cushy jobs in another city school and my snow shoveling days were over. Except, of course, when you wanted to drive your car somewhere, and you have to shovel the snow to make a path to get your car out. The folks in the south won't relate to this, but the folks up far north will. Did you know people actually carry snow shovels in their car?
We moved to Oklahoma about six years ago. My snow shovel is now called a feed scoop. When it does snow here I can normally sweep it off of the porch with a broom. Let me put this together for you now. I recently had lower back surgery to repair an injury I received about eight years ago. I had a ruptured disc repaired in my neck about 30 years ago, now. I've had two hernias repaired, and if I do anything orbital or repetitive with my right arm, then it will mean hours with a heating pad and Motrin to pacify my elbow. I'm now almost 65 years old.
I read lots of survival type stories. Most of them are just technical type manuals that have had a story line added to it. I read lots of them. Most of the characters in these novels are 25 to 35 years old. Most of them have retreats somewhere, and the story is normally about how they get there. Some of these stories are quite realistic, quite a few of them deal with zombies, not quite realistic. Remember that age group, 25 to 35, because when I was 35, or right close to it, I still used all non-electric hand tools. Most of these people in these novels are young, athletic, some type of super hero that has served in the military, and they seem to have a knowledge about life that few attain at that age.
When we left Alaska about six and a half years ago, we thought about moving to the mountainous northwest. Fern has a cousin that lives in central Idaho, and we talked about it a great deal. Then we talked about our age, better yet, my age. A couple of years earlier I had shoveled snow, everyday, month after month, for a couple of years. And if you've never shoveled snow everyday, then you just don't know one of the pleasures of life that you're missing. A little humor there. I love the northwest, and I love the ruggedness of the mountains. And I loved Alaska down to the very core of my being. But those are places for younger people. Now, if I was born and raised there, I would probably see it different. We have friends that live there, in the northwest.
But we are all getting older. That's one thing that's guaranteed if you survive birth, you are going to get older. Let that reality sink in. It's not just a quaint little statement. You and I are both going to get older. We all live in the moment, and for the moment. If you're 25 now, in 40 years you're going to be 65. That's a long time to plan ahead, but where you're going to spend
the rest of your life, sometime or another you have to give serious thought to where you are. Remember that intruder I told you about? What I feel in my spirit is not the man that I was looking at in the mirror. But my body is that man in the mirror. We all have to face the reality that we are getting older, whether we're 25, 45 or 65. At my age now, I actually give thought to wheelchair ramps. If someday I can't walk, will I be able to get into my bathroom? Because the first time I landed in Alaska, I was 20 years old. That was 45 years ago. I went back when I was 40 and spent one year. I went back to Alaska when I was 50 and spent eight years. Getting around Alaska in a wheelchair in the winter would be very, very difficult. Someday, I may be in a wheelchair, and someday, you may be in a wheelchair, too. Are you sure you are where you want to be? We had a couple of students in Alaska in wheelchairs. I know, I helped carry some of those wheelchairs. If times are good, that can be done. If something changes or there is a turn where we see changes in society, and you're the one in the wheelchair, are you sure you're where you want to be? Serious food for thought.
Give some thought to getting older. Have a serious, realistic talk with your loved ones. You might even want to plan where you're going to spend your last resting place. I hope I've opened up some avenues for thought. Times are not going to be getting any better any time soon, and you and I are not going to be getting any younger.
We'll talk more later. Frank