Friday, November 8, 2013

The Blessings and Disappointments of a Long Life

By Florida Memory, via Wikimedia Commons

This week I read a novel by one of my favorite mystery writers, Faye Kellerman. In it, she was describing the parents of her protagonist. The father was 77, the wife, 75. Both were described in ways that made clear that they were elderly. These characters were the same ages as my wife, Annette, and me, but we don’t look on ourselves as elderly.

Long life can be both a blessing and a curse. Watching your children and grandchildren grow from infants to young adults can be a blessing. We are proud of all our children and grandchildren, although they are each a singular person with individual personalities. My wife and I are blessed with devoted partners who treat life as a great adventure to pursue together. We were blessed with successful careers that provided a secure retirement. We’re blessed with a shared love of vocal music and many years of singing together in church choirs. Retirement can yield the time to pursue old dreams, as I am now with my writing and Annette does with her Master Gardening.

Living many years also gives one a long view of history. In a meeting with a group of young adults a few years ago, I was asked what I thought was the most significant thing I had witnessed in my life. My answer came instantly, “The civil rights revolution.” This surprised my young listeners. Having been born after the 1960s, they had no conception of how bad circumstances were for African Americans in the south during the last years of “Jim Crow.” When the market crashed in 2008, many of us older investors didn’t panic. We’d been through downturns before and knew to ride it out. I doubt that anyone under thirty really understands living under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, as we did during the Cold War. Yet we didn’t buckle under the pressure.

Time does not always result in progress. People my age remember when Congress used to actually function. Leaders of both parties conferred with the President and worked out compromises all could live with. Politics was not nearly as nasty as it has become in recent years. Compromise was recognized as essential to the democratic process, not viewed as caving in on one’s principles. The country moved forward. Watching the dysfunction of Washington today is heartbreaking to one who loves this country.

I remain thankful for a long life and good health, but most of all for my good luck in choosing a life partner. I suppose one day we really will get old, but we’re doing everything we can to stall that inevitability.

Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels released and for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from  Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One takes place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun is set in the war in the Pacific.

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