WOSTER: In older age, days and weeks fly byWhen I’m awake, I sometimes ponder my place in the universe.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Every so often, it hits me that I’m growing older.
You’re shocked, I know. Me, too. Much of the time, I’m neither young nor old. Now and then, though, I do the math, and, goodness gracious, I’ve been around a long time. I guess I should blame Howard Elrod back in Chamberlain High School. He made sure I learned math, and advanced math and algebra and geometry. I never forgot that stuff.
I’ve thought a bit more often about aging lately because I can look back half a century, 50 years, to the end of high school and the beginning of college. Those things were milestones, and so is a half-century of perspective on them.
When I was in high school, we were often told by grown-ups that we were experiencing the best times of our lives. Well, some were pretty good times, but I’ve had better — and worse — since.
I hope I never forget an interview I did several years ago with a Riggs High School senior. My newspaper honored top students each spring, and this young woman made the list. Among the questions I asked as I tried to set both of us at ease with the interview was whether she thought high school was the best time of her life, as some have said. She had a surprised look, almost frightened, as she said, “Oh, I hope not.” I laughed out loud.
My dad’s birthday is this Monday. He’s been gone since 1968, but I think of him every year at this time. I think of him often throughout the year, wishing he could see his kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, but I always have strong memories when December arrives.
He was 56 when he died. Unlike me, he never had a chance to look back over half a century to his high-school days. He was probably too busy working the farm and raising the family to spend a lot of time reflecting on his early days. It’s a mixed blessing of growing older — much older than 56, for sure — that a person has some time to reflect on those things.
In my case, some of that time to reflect comes during sleepless periods in the dead of night. I seem to start nodding off right after the early news, and I drift through the evenings. Then in the middle of the night, the perfect time for sleep, I wake, sometimes for minutes, sometimes for the rest of the night. Well, that isn’t so bad. An alcohol-treatment counselor I knew once told me nobody has ever died from lack of sleep. I suppose I could do an online search and find at least one case to disprove what he said, but in general, he’s probably right. So when I’m awake, I sometimes ponder my place in the universe.
My class had its 50th high school reunion last summer, and right about now half a century ago, I studied journalism at Creighton University in Omaha. I took a bus home from there once, and a couple of times I rode a bus to Vermillion for weekends with some guys from my CHS class. My dad talked once or twice about riding a freight train with his big brother to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1932 or so. The closest I’ve come to that is a Greyhound to Sioux Falls. The early morning walk through the dark streets of downtown Omaha carrying a battered suitcase was quite an adventure for a farm boy, but it probably didn’t equal jumping boxcars in a switch yard in Illinois.
One thing I’ve noticed about growing older is the days and weeks go past more quickly than before. Now and then a day stretches forever. The days and weeks, though, fly by. My little brother introduced me to the work of a writer named Charles Bukowski, whose stuff included this: “The days run away like wild horses over the hills.”
There’s truth to that, I’m learning.
I think Bukowski also wrote, “Never look upon age as wisdom … a man can be old and a fool — many are.”
There’s a thought for the dead of night.