March 22 • 04:17 AM

Over the hill, but adventure's far from over

September 19, 2007
Fifty. Fifty stars. Fifty states. Fifty cents. Fifty ways to leave your lover. Fifty thousand things to do. Five-Oh. Two times 25. Fifty years. Five decades. Half a century...

Whoa! When the heck did that happen? Is that even possible that I've walked the planet for half a century already this time around? Wasn't it just yesterday when I was picking strawberries on a hot summer day, a blissfully happy 14 year-old thrilled to be connected to the earth in the "country" with my girlfriends—searching out the glowing red jewels, feeling like an explorer, a miracle worker, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?

Wasn't it a few days ago perched on the edge of the diving board—balanced on my toes facing the ladder? Springing up through the legs, a motion I didn't even have to think about, a movement that was as natural as breathing—lifting, soaring, head down, toes pointed. An inward one-and-a-half, pike position. No fear.

Wasn't it just last week when I was driving around in my first "real" vehicle—a 1969 Oldsmobile '88 coupe that cost a whopping six hundred bucks? That crazy car that I was crazy in love with. My sister and I blasting David Bowie on the stereo.

It seems like it was just a few days ago when my dad called me up at work on Sept. 17.

"Happy 30th birthday," he says. "You know, in another month I'll turn 60. You're almost exactly half as old as me right now.

"But you just wait and see. You'll start catching up to me," Dad chuckles.

I ponder the math and realize that he's right. I get it. Next year I'll be 31, but he won't be 62. Therefore, "I'll start catching up to him." But 30 sounds so far away from 60. I laugh, but don't really think too much about it.

Thirty years difference is 30 years difference, but 50 doesn't sound—or even look—so very far away from 80. What's up with that?

It's gone by as quickly as climbing a ladder 50 rungs high; as fast as 50 blinks of the eye...

...Yet it's all unfolded an inch at a time. A second at a time, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year. That's plenty of time to embrace every experience—to laugh, cry. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die."

That hedonistic phrase all the sudden doesn't seem so hedonistic. It just seems true...

So far, I've yet to meet a year I didn't like and I hope this continues to be true every time Sept. 17 rolls around. I may be "over the hill" but all I have to do is turn my head a few times and realize that things are far from "over."

I just think about the stories I've done—and the ones I've yet to do. The 70-year-old unicyclist from Attica. The bicyclist who decided to ride from Florida to Michigan to mark his 65th birthday. Lapeer District Judge Laura Barnard who at 40-something (I think) straps on the hockey skates and mixes it up with the "boys," one of whom is almost 44, another—the goalie—65 or more.

Our 'Country Cousin' Gertie Brooks, who at 89 takes more trips than just about anyone I know.

Brent Avery—whose story I've yet to write—the 52-year-old barefoot water skier who shows no signs of slowing down. He's a local legend to the folks who live or vacation on Elk Lake where he and his wife Patrice have a "cottage" that was once owned by Brent's well-known dad, Dr. Dallas Avery of Almont. Part of Brent's story includes the fact that a couple of years ago down in Florida his wife arranged a 50th birthday present for him. A most unusual present. A chance to water ski with legendary barefooter 'Banana George' (or whatever his name is). What's the big deal, you ask? Banana George is 88 years-old. Patrice took photos of the two gliding atop the water together.

Closer to home I just have to look at my own folks, who never pass up an opportunity to party and have fun. Dad's almost 80 and Mom's about 75. They still jump in the motorhome and go throughout most of the summer. Friday nights are reserved for dinner and dancing. The mild weekends are Dad's beacon to get on his Harley and ride. Sometimes my mom hops on the back, too.

In fact, to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday (when my dad was 75), we rode up the Bruce Peninsula to Tobermorey—Rod and I on our own bikes, my dad and mom on his—where we spent a blissful four days traveling light, feeling free...

...Fifty. Whatever. I'm still a young punk, apparently, with a lot of miles ahead of me. I'm ready for the adventure.

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