For some inexplicable reason my life is full – on the verge of overflowing – on the eve of my 57th birthday. (I had to ask Candice, and she confirmed – when you turn 57 you are beginning your 58th year. I never was great at math.) First and foremost, Candice is wrapping up her stay in the hospital after successful hip replacement surgery on Wednesday. We head home today to continue the recovery. Both children are getting ready to go overseas (Claire by herself to Sweden; Andrew to Costa Rica) over spring break. Yikes! How did that happen? My sister texted me last night to say my father went to the emergency room with a lung infection, high enzymes, and low sodium…and the news got worse when she called to say he had a mild heart attack this morning. I just spoke with my brother and Dad just came out of surgery where they found 95% blockage in one of his arteries. We think all will turn out well, but this is not what you want to hear for your 86-year-old father. In addition, one of my brother-in-law’s closest friends was in a devastating car accident earlier this week, where her mother was killed and she’s facing a long recovery period after a seven-hour surgery. On top of it all, work remains full of challenges and opportunities.
Lying in bed, I was letting all of this get me down. Showering and breakfast helped, but it wasn’t until I was on my way to the hospital this morning that I fully realized how sorry I was feeling – for Candice, for Dad, for Janice…and, yes, for me.
Then I thought of the wonderful bumper sticker we saw in Northampton, Massachusetts, during our college visits a couple of years ago: the one that says “Just Say NO to Negativity.”
That woke me up!
So I did a mind game to turn things around: with all that is weighing on me, what was I thankful for entering my 58th year?
Family and Friends: I have a wonderful family – both our core family and the extended one. I’ve been blessed with a wife and children who love me unconditionally – which is a hard thing to do at times. Their talent and capacity for goodness amaze me. My father was one-half of an amazing set of parents who believed in grounding us in values but allowing us to find our own way and our own values as we grew into adulthood. Our extended family is always there for each other. Today I’m especially thankful for my two sisters and brother who live near my father and are watching over him. We have friends all over the country who stay in touch, look out for us, and enrich my life every day.
Health: First of I’ll, I’m thankful that I’m relatively healthy. Yeah, I need to lose 20 pounds or so, and I really do need to get that toe on my left foot checked out, but day-in and day-out I have no complaints. Our children are in great health – and Claire is especially rock solid after a strong year of college-level swimming and the workouts that go with it. Mostly this year, I’m very thankful for the health care that we’ve received. Candice had wonderful doctors and nurses at the neurological unit at Rhode Island Hospital following her fall last August. Back home, Dr. O’Connor, Dr. Herzfeld, and now Dr. Durbhakula have been a terrific team in leading Candice back to full recovery. Down in Tennessee, I’m thankful for the cardiologist at Vanderbilt who is checking out Dad’s heart at the moment.
Work: I have a job that I enjoy and that brings meaning to my life. My colleagues at the senior management level are all terrific professionals who know their work. I’m learning from them every day. The staff throughout the National Trust combine passion and skill in ways that are inspiring. We get to help save some of the most important places in America – what could be cooler than that! I have former colleagues and friends from the Trust and from all my previous jobs who continue to enrich my life and work.
Art: We’ve indulged Candice’s love for theatre and film this year – and to my amazement I’ve loved it! Among other things we’ve seen War Horse in New York City, Oklahoma! at the Arena Stage, and eight of the nine Best Picture nominees. I think back on some of the great music I’ve heard over my 57th year: Andrew’s senior voice recital, his debut in opera at college, and his role in Hairspray – as his yearbook says, Andrew will be Corny Collins when he grows up! Wonderful IMT performances throughout the year have fed my love for acoustic music. And in looking ahead, I have tickets to Merlefest for next month, and that’s always a treat!
Enough Stuff…but Not Too Much: I just noticed that none of the things listed above has anything to do with stuff. I’ve learned from family that stuff doesn’t matter. We have a home that could fit in the Not So Big House series. It is just right for us. The 11-year-old car just passed 170,000 miles, but still seems to get us around. Someone recently told me I HAD to get a high-definition television because of my love of sports, but the television we have works and now when I go to a hotel I get a treat with the HDTV. I have two guitars and a mandolin and they seem to keep me busy. We’ve been paring down, not adding stuff…and I’m thankful that we’ve kept the clutter at bay.
Hope Springs Eternal: And on the day before I turn 57, my Washington Nationals have their first spring training game of the season – where everybody’s a champion. But the Nats have the look of a good – if not great – team this year. For the first time in my life I went in with friends as part of a season ticket packet – so I’m guaranteed to see 8-10 games. I’m with Annie Savoy: I believe in the Church of Baseball.
With March 4th on the horizon, I’m not feeling old. But as a wise person points out, not too many people live to be 114 – so 57 is a little high in the “middle age” bracket. Birthdays put you in the frame of mind to think a bit about age, I suppose. As Daddy likes to say, “Getting old isn’t for wimps,” and all the things swirling around in my life today seem designed to reinforce that fact. But whatever comes, I’m thankful for what I have and – most importantly – for the people who have made, and continue to make, my 57 years so rich in love.
More to come…