It warmed up to about 37 degrees F. in Eagle River in mid-January and the little snow we had become wet and sticky– what we called “snowman snow” when we were kids.
So, despite an aching back and a complaining knee, I ventured out into the front yard to build a snowman.
The warming trend was forecast to continue, so upon completion of my creation, I took a photo of what I knew would become a very short-lived “Frosty.” Before heading indoors, I admonished the snow figure to alert the Snow Gods so they would bring more snow to cover up all the wretched ice caused by freezing rain.
As I’ve aged I’ve become fascinated with the process, or to be more correct, the fight against it. And I admit guilt in inflicting my thoughts on the subject upon far too many readers. But bear with me.
Since scientists haven’t yet been able to manipulate that perfect set of genes to halt human aging, seniors such as myself–and even middle-agers approaching those golden years–have joined the battle against aging in whatever ways we can muster.
I was in Seward many years ago at a high school graduation to present a scholarship on behalf of my employer, BP, and the song seniors played after receiving their diplomas was Rod Stewart’s hit, “Forever Young.” Looking at the students’ youthful faces, brimming with hope and optimism, I was deeply moved.
I imagined them years into the future, growing and building their lives, raising children, trying to live up to those song lyrics.
I don’t know how life turned out for that group of students—perhaps some of them might be reading this. But there was a strength and confidence that shone brightly in their faces. I suspect that today most of them are doing very well.
In the realm of aging, one of the most poignant Twilight Zone television episodes I can recall was the one set at a home for senior citizens. While most of the residents sat idly in the recreation room, staring vacantly at the television screen, watching the hours and days go by; one of the more energetic, enterprising folks wanted to go outside and play kid games, such as “Kick the Can.”
After exhaustive coaxing and cajoling, the restless member of the group finally persuaded others to sneak outdoors. One stubborn old man remained behind, worried that they’d get into trouble, or hurt themselves. He watched through the window as the seniors dashed wildly around the yard, kicking a can, laughing and giggling.
Soon the sounds of grownup gaiety turned into the laughter of children, as the group played hide and seek in and around the thick bushes. Regretful that he didn’t join them, the old man pleaded with one of his closest friends, now only nine years old and in oversized, droopy clothing, that he might join them. The friend shook his head as if to say “it’s too late,” and ran away with the others. Their voices faded into the distance.
Choosing youth: That episode stayed with me, as did the Seward graduation ceremony.
Father Time yields to no one, yet we have choices on how we live, and how we respond to what Shakespeare referred to as “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
Granted, some of us are blessed with good health that allows us to remain physically active longer than others. Some are more successful in careers than others and are able to afford more care as they become elderly. And some folks are just plain lucky.
But I keep coming back to Rod Stewart’s song, because I believe staying young resides mostly in the mind and the heart.
I’ve known quite a few folks who exemplify this. Some of them are Sewardites, but I won’t embarrass them by mentioning their names. Since she’s deceased, however, I will mention the late Patricia Ray Williams, who remained “forever young” until her death in 2014 at 104 years old.
Like some of the other special folks I’ve known, “Pat” Williams never lost touch with the child within her, and she demonstrated that inner playfulness throughout her long and very rich life. Not too many years before she died I asked her how old she was. She replied coyly: ”You understand, don’t you Frank, that it’s impolite to ask a lady how old she is?”
Keeping the child close by: Over the years during those days of wet, sticky snow and the creation of other Frosties, I’ve had people walk by on the street and compliment my children on the great snowmen.
I thank them without mentioning my children have long since grown up and are no longer living with us.
Certainly, there are aches and pains. There are doctor visits and prescription drugs. There are topical creams, glucosamine, daily stretching and exercises, a knee brace and even a joint replacement.
But I hearken back to Rod Stewart’s song. And when I think of it, I want to go outdoors and build a snowman, or go sledding.
Maybe, one of these days I’ll find some other kids who want to play “Kick the Can.”
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer and ECHO News team member who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired Birchwood ABC school teacher. To reach Frank, email: email@example.com