When this year arrived I realized that I have lived in NINE different decades...having been born in 1948. I turned 70 years old two years ago. It's difficult for me to believe . . . until I look in the mirror and confirm the sordid truth. It sounds even worse when someone refers to a person that age as a septuagenarian . . . like something that should be placed in a museum . . . homo sapien septuageneris, a prehistoric relic . . . "Look Mother, that person was born in the 1940s! Wow!"
I felt a little better after I had my annual checkup with our family doctor. He stated that my heartbeat, blood pressure, weight and all other vital signs were the same as an 18-year old, but added that unfortunately I was still in my 70s. Thanks . . . I think!
When I was a teenager, I thought 30 was old. Then as I aged, I would change my conception of "old age." For a while, 40 sounded old . . . then 50 . . . then 60. Now 80 sounds old. But assuming I keep active and in good health, maybe 80 won't be so bad. I am in better health now than I was when I left the Sheriff's Department in 1997. At that time I was working approximately 90 hours a week, smoking two or three packs of cigarettes a day, eating one meal a day, and sleeping two to three hours a night. Now I get plenty of exercise, sleep seven to eight hours a night, eat healthy . . . and I QUIT smoking 20 years ago. At one time, I was jogging 5 miles every morning, and sometimes I would jog up to 14 miles a day . . . until one of my knees started hurting. Now I walk two miles every morning and jog two miles one day a week.
Age is a state of mind in many respects. I don't feel old. I have goals I want to accomplish. I have things I look forward to. I LIKE to work! I will never forget what my mother told me one day when I was 10 years old. She had some chore she wanted me to do, and I expressed my opinion that I did not really WANT to do it. She told me that I should be GLAD that I could work, that there are many people in the world who would love to be able to work but couldn't because of a handicap or some other obstacle in their life. Mother said that one of the worst things that could happen to a person is to wake up and have NOTHING TO DO.
I know of people who cannot wait to retire and are looking forward to a "life of leisure." Many of these same people become bored out of their mind after only a few weeks of retirement, and they start looking for another part-time or full-time job.
No one can predict the future. No one knows how long they have to live. God determines that. I am planning on living to be 100 years old. God may have other plans. I have noticed that as I age, I enjoy "peace and quiet" more . . . maybe God is telling me to get ready for a LOT of peace and quiet. I hope that if I die at the age of 100, I am still working daily and running marathons on the weekend . . . well, a person DOES need to have goals, don’t they?

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.