Thursday’s post about Ron and Beverly has generated discussion with friends and readers, most of it private. One public comment in particular was thought-provoking, stirring my own thoughts on something I live with every day.
A childhood neighbor observed that the couple didn’t appear to be very fit. That is, they looked old and, especially in light of what we know of their health and mobility issues, perhaps even frail. They were the picture of “elderly.”
I responded from my own experience, knowing that my friend may confront the same thing. I said, “That’s probably not what they saw when they looked in the mirror.”
Saturday night at the bar I was asked how old I am. The guy who’d posed the question was shocked to learn that I’ll turn 65 this summer, saying (in so many words) that I present as more vital than he would’ve expected of a man my age — a good thing, evidence that my spirit continues to vibrate at a more youthful frequency.
We walk a fine line as we age. Most of us strive to remain “young-at-heart.” We stay alive by staying in motion. At the same time, we feel our bodies betraying us and we’re forced to express our inner selves within physical abilities that slowly diminish. We adapt.
Deb and I, traveling the country and exploring The Mountain over the last year, acknowledged our limitations. For example, as much as we would’ve loved to hike deep into Glacier’s backcountry in September, we knew our bodies weren’t up to the challenge and satisfied ourselves with whatever was accessible via Mercy.
We didn’t take Ernie places he wasn’t designed to go, but still that massive bus brought our goals within range of our abilities. On our property in northern Arkansas we’ve employed the agile Ranger to shorten our forays into the woods. Through it all, despite not acting like a couple of froggy twenty-somethings, we’ve had a ball.
I have no doubt that Ron and Beverly were young-at-heart. I’m sure their spirits buzzed with youthful enthusiasm and an irrepressible sense of adventure. Sadly, they allowed their willing spirits to write a check that their weak flesh couldn’t cash.
They failed to grasp the reality of their situation and respond within their abilities (and the capabilities of their vehicles), making tragically poor decisions. This morning I came into possession of a couple of photos illustrating just how ill-advised those decisions were.
I’ve also read accounts from people familiar with the terrain in that area. The motorhome ended up on a mountain, at 8,082 feet in a spot accessible only by way of roads that no one expected the driver of a Class C pulling a car would be foolish enough to challenge. Aerial SAR didn’t make the sector a high priority due to the improbability that an RV could (or would even try to) make it that far.
I don’t blame search teams for not looking sooner in such an unlikely area. And, as I said on Thursday, I don’t blame GPS.
Poor judgement, pride and ego can kill any of us, of course, but the risk increases with age and infirmity. Though we may want to do everything we once were capable of, we’re better off exercising smarts that are supposed to come over time.
If you detect in my words a hint of anger, you’re not wrong. This tragedy didn’t have to happen, and it saddens me less than it pisses me off.
The man I saw in the mirror this morning isn’t 65. Sure, I see the white hair and the lines and the tiring eyes. But the essence of the guy looking back at me is no different than what I saw at ten, at 30, at 50, and yesterday.
There’s nothing delusional about that. It’s just as real as the creakiness I feel when I step away from the looking glass.
The trick as we age, I think, is to keep our self-perceived youthfulness on a leash of wisdom. Joy is everywhere. Adventure still awaits. Risks can be managed and, for survival’s sake, they should be.
Pro tip: Integral to “quality of life” is life itself.
The way I look at it, I didn’t make it this far to throw it all away by being stupid. There’s a lot of life within my limits and I mean to live as much of it as my time on the planet allows. I owe that, at least, to the man I see in the mirror.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.