Moving into life's autumn 

Ranger Rich

I'm at my desk at home now and the first orange rays of sunlight have pierced the darkness, dancing across the meadow of wild grass outside my window. It is Sunday. April 1. I turned 57 years old today.

April 1 is a great day for a birthday, especially if you have a strange 22-year-old son who tells you he's taking a paternity test in the morning because his girlfriend is pregnant, which she is not, and he watches all the color drain from your face before he barks "April Fool!" and then everyone laughs. Ha-ha-ha.

But in three years I'll be 60 and that doesn't make any sense at all. I feel 30. I act 18. I don't have any idea in the world how this has happened to me.

One minute I was putting a thumb tack on Dave Fiske's seat in ninth-grade geography class (it's all about timing and yes, he sat on it) and the next thing I know my bladder awakens me in the middle of each and every night and I lurch toward the bathroom in the blackness with one ankle making strange popping noises along the way.

Here's a glance at the journey:

I grew up in Massachusetts. It was a terrific time, unless you were Dave Fiske's buttocks. I'm guessing he still looks for thumb tacks before he sits down.

Then it was off to Marquette University in Milwaukee. Beer. Much beer. But I still have some dear friends from those days and when we gather we hug and we mean it.

After college I got a job in Los Angeles and off I went for what I figured would be a year or two in the craziest place I've ever seen. But Los Angeles lasted for 16 years. It's where my three children were born and for that I hold L.A. very dear to my heart.

Then came a really terrific career move. I left a job at the Los Angeles Times for a job at the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, which, as you know, has since dropped the "Telegraph" and is now known simply as the Penny Saver.

(I moved to Colorado because I thought here the kids would turn out normal. They did not, and I couldn't be happier about that.)

I remember driving here from L.A. with two somewhat sedated black Lab dogs, Max and Jennifer. Sometimes that drive seems like it was just last week. But Max and Jennifer have long since died and I've been in Colorado for 19 years now. It's a beautiful place.

Somehow, that all adds up to 57 years.

I've had cataract surgery on my right or "good" eye and I'll have the other eye done in a few months. I have three dental implants. I recently injured my back by sneezing. I think I've mentioned my popping ankle and nightly dashes to the bathroom.

I've had skin cancer, too. And both of my elbows ache from tendinitis. I have several white eyebrow hairs and sometimes I plunge the electric nose-hair clipper so far up a nostril I'm not sure I can get it back out.

But a dozen years ago I met Susie and there hasn't been a lousy day since. Not one. (I probably speak only for myself.) We created a blended family of five kids and all are on a good road. They range from almost 30 to almost 20 and they don't live here anymore. They live in Denver and Steamboat Springs and Baltimore.

The clock is steady. Unwavering. Relentless.

And so today, gazing out the window as the sunlight shimmers on the wild spring grass and the morning shadows reach across the meadow, I am 57 years old. It doesn't make sense at all, this crazy-fast trip.

But I hold hard to all of it. Every age. The thumb tacks on Dave's seat and the madness of Los Angeles and the great luck that brought me to Colorado. And the kids, all of them, and how they've done so well and changed so much.

And even though it is spring, I know that my autumn is here, too. I don't know what the age of 60 will bring. Or 70.

But I do know these two things:

It's been a fascinating trip.

And I should probably get a night light for the bathroom.


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