I am enjoying life more today than ever.
Oh, sure, I remember those days when the house was filled with our children, full of energy, running everywhere with their friends, and that was fun. But it was also stressful because while we were enjoying those times, I was always thinking of ways to provide more for our family, to get ahead.
For years, it seemed we kept repeating the cycle of starting to get ahead, changing jobs and instead of building on what we had, it seemed we were just going back down to the first rung on the ladder. I was in the ministry so we usually moved when the church wanted us to, not when we wanted.
Then I changed careers. It was very stressful at first but then we started building our lives.
We are still not rich but there is a sense of satisfaction. It seems we can have a life instead of just making a living.
I'm not sure if grandchildren give that satisfaction or grandchildren come along at the time when we have built our lives to the point life is good.
I liken it to riding a bicycle. You ride and you fall. You ride and you can't get the hang of pedaling with your feet while using your handlebars. Eventually, it all come together and you're riding and you cannot remember what it was like to not be able to ride.
I feel that I have learned how to ride that bicycle called life and I wouldn't want to go back to that awful time of almost making a living and then starting over.
When I was 5 years old, we were visiting my grandfather in Winamac and one evening I saw the neighbor boy and his friends start a fire in the middle of the driveway that separated Grandpa's house from theirs. This was in the late '50s and no one called the fire department.
The neighbor boy's dad was in the middle of the action. He was notching the end of a dowel rod. Grandpa and I were on his open front porch watching what was going on. I would have loved to have been in the midst of the action but they were all big kids and so I had to be content to stay on the porch and watch.
Soon, the most spectacular thing happened. The dad and the boy next door built a ramp and soon all the kids were riding their bikes over the ramp and jumping the fire! How exciting!
I soon found out why the dad had been working on the dowel rod. The guys painted their faces like Indians and shot homemade arrows at a target on the neighbors' garage. It was just at dusk and I could see sparks flying as the guys rode their bikes through the flames.
No wonder I wanted a "two-wheeler" for my sixth birthday.
I remember the smell of the new tires on my bike as it set on our enclosed front porch the next winter. It was the smell of adventure and freedom -- and it reminded me of the guys riding through the fire with faces painted as Indians.
I recently lost a well-respected friend. He often spoke of the writings of the apostle Paul in the New Testament and about the trials during Paul's life. We had a memorial service for him last week.
I treasure memories of Gerald and the "Indians" when I was little and all the good people who have crossed my path.
So, I recently picked up the phone and called the best man in my wedding from nearly 40 years ago. He was my best friend going through college and I haven't talked to him for years. We didn't part in anger the last time we spoke. I was just too busy trying to get ahead.
That conversation with my friend last week made me thankful I have arrived at a place where I am not pushing, pushing, pushing to get ahead.
I know I will not get a Pulitzer Prize. The Chicago Tribune, Indianapolis Star or New York Times won't be trying to recruit me and that's OK, though at one time I was working as hard as I could to try to get ahead.
I am thankful I can enjoy my children, my grandchildren and spend time every day with my wife, whether it's just watching TV while reading a book or eating a quiet lunch together.
I am thankful I can do what I love to do for a living and even dabble in writing books.
I'm thankful to have friends. Speaking of which, we plan to visit my old college friend who lives in Illinois this summer.
I look in the mirror and wonder who is that old guy with gray hair and whiskers who sneaks into our house every morning and climbs into my mirror. I know I'm no longer 30, but I feel like it.
That old guy in the mirror reminds me of someone I once knew, but he does not look like me. It should not be my reflection, but something tells me he is me.
People can continually preach, "Stop and smell the roses," but there is something about guys -- maybe the testosterone -- that makes a guy push, push, push to get ahead. But at some point we seem to lighten up and realize nice and easy gets the job done just as well and we have to control only what is in our ability to control.
As I say, life is good and I'm thankful to be able to enjoy it.