Saturday, June 16, 2012

Welcome to Medicare ... age 65

        So here I am at 65. Today I'm officially in the Medicare generation, although I've been covered for a couple of weeks now.
       It's my birthday and Bea -- who is in charge here -- "suggested" I write about it because I've already written about Jason's, Rachel's and her birthdays.  And I thank you for the birthday wishes; they began arriving on Facebook last weekend.
         I used to think that, being born in 1947, I would be 53 in the year 2000, and I would be ready to retire when I turned 65 ... in 2012. And, gee, where have the years gone?
         So let me share some thoughts with you about reaching 65. Using a format I've never used before, I decided I would ... interview myself. Here goes ...
         How's it going? (Note: This is how I begin 95 percent of my conversations on the phone). Great. I'm grateful to be here. It's a great time of life; I try to enjoy every day.
          What keeps you busy these days? We read a lot, we try to exercise every day -- I love my walks through the neighborhood near TCU, and my occasional trip on the treadmill in the exercise room at our apartment complex  -- and Bea and I try to do things around the city. We've gone to the Botanical Gardens, to the Concert in the Park, to Bass Hall, to the museums, we spent much of late April and May on the road to Shreveport, Sulphur, Baton Rouge, Memphis, Knoxville. We eat well but also more carefully. We think about our lives and where we want to go in the near future.
Opa Nico, Granny Bea and the
grandkids -- Kaden, Josie and Jacob.
           What's the best part of life? No question -- the grandkids. We're so proud of our kids; they went through a lot when they were young, through many more tests than they should have, and they've become wonderful young adults. We love their spouses, but we are especially blessed to spend time with our Josie, Jacob and Kaden. They are the reward for a lot of difficult years.
           Why so difficult? Whatever problems I ran into, I usually caused them. Too many distractions, too many lapses in judgment, too demanding, too impatient, too hard on myself, too hard on others.
          What's changed? Bea says I've mellowed, thank you. I don't feel very mellow any time the Yankees, Cowboys, LSU, Louisiana Tech or the Dutch soccer team lose games, but ... they are games. Bea and I can still push each other's "mad" buttons, but we are time-tested and we are battle-tested.
          What about your career? What career?
           Seriously ... Well, I'm semi-retired. I worked in newspaper sports departments or in sports information for 40-plus years and I was laid off in May 2011. Since last fall, I have worked parttime in Dallas or Fort Worth a couple of times a week -- sometimes a day or two more -- but I work shorter shifts and mostly get to choose my spots. I want to cover high school football one more season this fall, and at the end of the year, I don't intend to work any more. Period.
          Satisfied with the career? Yes. I was never going to be a great everyday writer or reporter; it just didn't come that easily. I did try to be a great employee. Didn't always satisfy the people in charge, didn't meet their standards, but again, most of that was my fault. I was never all that compliant and I didn't always behave. But I say this with all sincerity -- I always gave it 100 percent. I didn't try to take shortcuts or the easy way. Tried my best on everything; tried to stay ahead. There were subjects I didn't know much about, but I learned to ask for help.
       The biggest lesson? There is so much in life you cannot control. I learned the hard way you cannot control how people think, you cannot control certain circumstances. I think, I hope, I've gotten a lot better at handling the things I could control, and accepting the rest of it. The Serenity Prayer is important to remember.
        The legacy? What does it matter? Well, I did leave a legacy of fun, I hope. I had fun, and I think the people around me did, if they got past the outbursts and the kicked trash cans and thrown objects. There's a legacy of perverse silliness ... the kind you get in every sports department. It was usually a pretty interesting mix of people, and I'd like to think I learned something from all of them.
       What about the friends? I've got so many, so many people I'm fond of. I was almost always able to make friends, and I've kept them. I never suffered fools easily, so you learn to weed. Often, though, I was the fool. But I value my friends -- so many of those people from Shreveport-Bossier, those kids from Sunset Acres and Oak Terrace and Woodlawn and La. Tech, those newspaper people, the coaches and the administrators from all over.
       Beatrice tops the list; she's been my best friend for 36 years now; she's my rock, my conscience, my advisor, my nemesis ... we are a team. She's the gutsiest person I know. And Casey Baker and John W. Marshall III know me better than anyone but Bea; we're close, and they've been there longer than Bea. So many others, though, that I consider close friends, too many to name.
        Who do you miss most? Oh, man. My parents, Bea's parents and her brother, my mentors (Pete Dosher, Bill McIntyre, Jack Fiser, Paul Manasseh), my great friend Ken Liberto ... Just to know I can't pick up the phone and talk to them, or see them in person again, it's tough.
         Regrets? It's not like My Way ... "regrets, I had a few, but then again too few to mention." No, I've got too many to mention. But the object is to not add any more.
          How lucky were you? Oh, I'm one of the luckiest people I know. Sure, things happened that weren't lucky. But I got so many breaks, none bigger than coming to the United States from Holland at age 8 1/2. When I failed -- and I did so many times -- people were always there to pick me up.  First my parents. Then mostly, Beatrice. She stayed with me when she had a lot of reasons not to. My kids stayed with me. When I needed jobs, along came McIntyre and Stanley Tiner, Mike Richey, John Adams, Celeste Williams.
        What about the blog? It's fun; it gets things on paper that I wanted to say. I know it's egocentric, but it gives me a chance to write. Hopefully, it entertains some people. Not trying to be too critical of anything or anyone. Trying to share some of my experiences, and some of my wisdom (there's a laugh there, as Dan Fleser would say).
       Where to from here? Many more good days with Miss Bea, Rachel and Jay, and their families. Hopefully, many more days with Josie, Jacob and Kaden. It is so fulfilling to watch them grow, watch them learn so rapidly, laugh with them, enjoy what they can do (revel in it, in fact). Many more good meals, and good times, and mostly, good health.
        OK, wrap it up -- this is getting too long. Not unusual for me to write long. The bottom line is that I feel very blessed. Life has been a great experience, and I hope there is a lot more to it. And I thank all of you.


  1. You have built a wonderful legacy for your family and those of us who call you " friend" !! Wishing you many more years of enjoying life to the fullest!!

  2. Happy Birthday Nico! I have enjoy reading everything you have been writing these past few months. Keep it coming.
    Will van den Boom

  3. Happy Birthday my friend and have a Happy Father's Day.

  4. Happy belated birthday, Nico!!! I keep telling you this and I will continue....I love your writing! Sandra