By Bob Howard In Essays

And count your blessings, old man.

There are many.

Today at the gym I met Patrick. One of his legs looks like it’s going in the opposite direction from the other. He’s fifty-four and contemplating knee replacement surgery. Been there, done that, and, God bless Dr. Schutzer (Pat’s doctor too), the two new knees he gave me enabled me for thirteen years to forego a wheelchair. Blessed I am with a medical miracle (see Knees).

Oh, the joys of home ownership: a new chimney and, in the garage to your right, a new Ford Escape.

To climb stairs in a big house outfitted with just about every modern convenience, including central AC, electric generator, lawn sprinkler system, central vac, large brick patio, lawn with frontier fence, three large TV’s, finished basement, new kitchen cabinets, screened porch, and sufficient electronic devices to satisfy adolescent dreams. After living for seventy years in someone else’s house, I now reside in one in which I share ownership with a bank. No picket fence, but fulfillment of the American dream nonetheless.


With whom we also share occupancy… with a small, fat, old, white-haired canine of French extraction. When my spirit tanks, I can rely on Tapioca to lift them with her response to my single word invitation, “Cuddle?” Only Barbara’s ministrations are more effective than Tappy’s; but I don’t want to spend down uxorial affections too frequently, so little white doggie gets the summons.

She will moan her approval of another blessing we share, Barbara’s cooking. When the company supplying our house with electricity sends us an analysis of our usage, 75 Fox Chase Lane tops the list for most kilowatts in our neighborhood. Not because we are particularly wasteful, but because, unlike most of the households, we don’t buy out and eat in. Barbara cooks. Tappy and I eat. The two of us, dog and I, defy actuarial predictions of longevity in no small measure because our cook is also a wise nutritionist who knows how to make healthy tasty. I’m thereby blessed thrice a day.


During which march of them (days, that is) I still have my marbles. Most of them. I lost them once, at the age of ten when a twelve-year-old, more physically adept and miles more Machiavellian, bet me out of a Maxwell House coffee tin of clearies, pinkies, and jumbos. I wept uncontrollably until my Dad confronted the schemer and restored my treasure. Since then I’ve guarded my marbles zealously, done crossword puzzles, and consumed acres of broccoli. I’ve heeded Kipling’s advice in “If” to “keep your marbles when all about you Are losing theirs.” I’ll not ever take a clear head and supple mind for granted, assuming I possess them. The nagging thought that I don't was not assuaged when Barbara recently returned from the Museum of American Art in New Britain with a gift for me, more marbles. Worried am I because in this moment those of us in our ninth decade seem constantly in search of an elusive memory.

Lest this listing seem excessive (and it probably does), I shall conclude… with bragging about my grandchildren. Eight of them. The kind of people it’s fun to sit around the dining room table and muse with about life and times. Two doctors, a lawyer, an educational consultant, two up-and-coming businessmen, a poet, and a bass fiddler.

The manager for fifteen years of the facility where I exercise left today.  Was cashiered. I found him at the counter when I checked out.  I extended my hand and wished him good luck.  He responded by wishing me good luck.  I was struck by an impulse of uncharacteristic humility and told David that I didn’t think I deserved any more good luck than I had already received, far more than my share.  Which is where I’ll leave these personal beatitudes, except to add that if God above gives us life to smell the flowers and share the love, then, for no reason of virtue I can fathom, I’ve been granted a pilgrimage strewn with plenty of roses and dear ones along the way.   Yeah, life has been very good to that old man who recently wrote you complaining about the insults of aging. 

If you can forgive him, I shall too.


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