“Age is a question of mind over matter,” African-American baseball great Satchel Paige said. And, he added, “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
I keep hearing about people who don’t seem to mind. Folks who could just be sitting on the porch rocking away the days but are outdoing people half their age.
Take George H.W. Bush. He chose to celebrate his 75th, 80th and 90th birthdays by jumping out of airplanes.
And, Harland Sanders. When the Colonel was 65 years old, he retired with only a monthly $105 Social Security check. Instead of taking it easy, he traveled across the country going to restaurants cooking batches of chicken for the owners.
Sanders spent two years driving and sleeping in the back seat of the old, beat up car in his rumpled white suit. He was told “no” 1,009 times before he got his first “yes.” But by the time he was 77, Colonel Sanders had sold more than 600 franchises.
Then there’s 81-year-old Gerry Bloch. He became the oldest climber to scale Yosemite National Park’s famed El Capitan rock face. Overcoming aching joints and chilly weather, Bloch did what others have called impossible.
The retired chemical engineer made the climb carrying enough food and water for the weeklong venture. He ran out of medicine for his arthritis, because cold weather and the weight of his supplies slowed him down. So he had to settle for ibuprofen instead.
And a woman in Chicago earned her high school diploma when she was 94. She’s headed for college with plans to get at least a Master’s Degree someday.
Frank McCourt wrote his first book, “Angela’s Ashes,” at 65. And Laura Ingles Wilder was 65 when she wrote her first “Little House on the Prairie” book. James Michener churned out more words each day in his 80s than McDonald’s cranks out burgers.
Goethe finished “Faust” at 80, and Ben Franklin was 80 when he helped compose the Constitution. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian and Picasso all painted masterpieces in their 80s. Grandma Moses started painting at 78 and kept it up until she was l01.
It does me good to read about the feats of those older folks. Thing is, when I was a teenager I agreed wholeheartedly with a popular saying, “Don’t trust anybody over 30!”
And I used to love to sing along with the Beetles:
“When I get older, losing my hair,
Many years from now…
Will you still need me,
Will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four.”
These days, 64 is beginning to seem a bit young. Those “many years from now” are in the rear view mirror.
I remember Mama in her 90s saying it always surprised her when she saw herself in the mirror. “I don’t feel different inside,” she’d say. “Not wrinkled or bent.”
But, I’ve come up with a plan. When I need to check out my reflection in the looking glass, I’ll just take off my bifocals and dim the lights.
Mary Belk lives in Auburn and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News.