How Did I Get This Old This Quickly?

Leon Hammack 01
70th birthday

I don’t mind that I am 70 years old!! (Says almost nobody that I have ever known.).

I have now had about a couple of months to try on this 70 thing. To be honest I am still in the “try out mode”. There are times when this age fits comfortably like a nice warm winter glove. On the other hand there are times that the fit is extremely uncomfortable, tight, constrictive, choking and unable to breathe. Then there are times when this 70 year old exterior is so emotionally upsetting that tears erupt.

In order to come full circle in this discussion of my age I must travel back in time about sixteen months. Sixteen months ago, December 17, 2019 was the day that I went into Scripps La Jolla to have my aortic valve replaced by Dr. Jeff Tyner. As I have written about it on this website, that day was a very large life even that would change many things in my life forever.

The surgery took just slightly over six hours to complete. For me it was all over in the blink of an eye. However, for my immediate family it was probably a very long and painstaking morning and afternoon.

Within a couple of days I was beginning to get on the road to recovery. But being by myself most of the time in the hospital, you have ample time to reflect on all of your life that led up to your appointment with the cardio thoracic surgeon. Many of those visions and talks with one’s self were insightful, but not nearly as insightful as the talks that have come afterward! I will admit that during my week stay in the hospital I had many “come to Jesus talks” with myself. Many of those talks were telling myself that “Dude, it is time to put on your “Big Boy Panties” and get yourself into recovery mode.

When I got home from San Diego I got myself programmed to begin my recovery by getting dressed each morning and get out walking. I knew that doing that, walking, I would be getting my cardiovascular system back into shape, thereby accelerating my recovery process.

At my three month month recovery point this country and the entire world, was hit with the pandemic of COVID-19. Damn! Now, just when I am just starting to feel like I am markedly better and that I could get into my car drive to Fresno to see my kids and my grandkids, the world just stopped turning! Just when I felt that I could safely go visit my boys I was forced back into isolation! Well ok! Surely this virus will be short lived and we can get back to our normal regiment in due time!

So the days turned into weeks. The weeks turned into months. And now the months have turned into more than a year! All that time to be isolated. All that time to be reflective. All that time to be critical. And all that time to do some much needed psychological “house cleaning”.

As Winter majestically bloomed into Spring with hopes of healing up, COVID spread like wildfire! As Spring warmed up into the extreme heat that occurs in the Sonoran Desert, I was forced me back into my air conditioned house in June. Then the Summer heat cooled as the calendar transitioned into Fall, and 2020 ended for me just as it started, lonely and isolated. I was back in my house, solo, keeping my distance from all human beings, meanwhile walking in the morning for my physical well-being as well as for my mental well-being!

It was during those 53 minute morning walks five days a week that I began working on my mental well-being. It was during those 53 minute walks that I tried to evaluate where I am in this thing called life. It was during those 53 minute walks that I realized that I need to try to fix all the problems, or perceived problems, that I have inventoried. And so the process began.

In scrutinizing my memory bank, I remembered that not all birthdays that ended with a zero was enlightening, introspective, or just downright painful. Looking back there was really only one previous birthday that ended with a zero that really caught my attention. That birthday was the morning I woke up being ………… 50 years old!

That birthday, 50, made me realize that there was no question that I was more than halfway on my life’s journey, since I did not know anyone that was 100 years old at that time! On that day I remember spending it in self reflection and introspection. On that day I remember feeling like ‘where the hell did the time go’? How can my two little boys be in the mid to late twenties already? I really can’t be this old this quickly, can I? On that day I remember telling myself “pull those belts tight ’cause the ride is going to get a lot faster and a lot rougher Captain”!

Well little did I know that the advice that I had given myself was going to be some very sage advice!

Fast forward 20 years and I have had some of those same thoughts run through my head over the last two months. How can I be 70 years old? How can Jason be looking at turning 48 in November? How can I have an 18 year old grandson and a soon to be 15 year old granddaughter? How can my hair be turning silver? How can this be already?

One of the biggest questions for me now is I am worried about my mortality and my legacy. After having open heart surgery the reality is that my days are numbered. But how much time do I have, 20 years, 10 years, 5 years? None of us know that answer. I have come to grips, however, with the reality that there is more of my life that has played out in the rear view mirror than there is left to play out through the front windshield! And that, my friends, scares the hell out of me!

But I know that is something that we all have to come to terms with in our lives. To my friends and family that are older than me, and have already dealt with this legacy/mortality issue, I think that you know what I am talking about. For those of you who are younger than I, and may be still “in the prime of your life”, this time is coming for you….. just be prepared!

Before you know it you will be saying, “how did the time fly by so damn fast”? We all will answer that question in our own particular way!

After all, life is a very long and very winding road!

ROGER, WILCO, OVER AND OUT!