When I write this, I’m in Texas. When you read this, I will have returned to the Southwest corner.
As a birthday present from my wife, I took a whirlwind trip to Austin to attend the play, “Lend Me a Tenor,” playing at the Georgetown Palace Theater with daughter, Sarah, in a lead role.
I stayed with my other daughter Blythe, my grandson Sam, and my son-in-law Jason Gander. I went to watch six-old Sam play basketball. I got to spend precious time with both daughters. Jason and I, with birthdates five days apart, celebrated doing “guy things.”
I had dinner with J.D. Waits, his wife Mary Lou, and Dave Carey and his wife Sandy. J.D. was my shipmate, shared a condo with me in Coronado, and we ran together, in 10K races and around the town. Dave was a POW in Vietnam, whom I succeeded in our last Navy tours and my mentor in organization development consulting. Both are lifetime friends.
And I did go see that play; and yes, Sarah was great.
Sunday, I flew west from Austin after the big change.
I don’t wish to make too much of it, but there seems to be finality with the change.
Sometime around 7:30 a.m. on this past Sunday’s date a long time ago at McFarland Hospital at the end of East Spring Street, Dr. Charles T. Lowe, with the able assistance of Katherine Webster Prichard, my grandmother, delivered a screaming, red-faced infant from my mother, Estelle Jewell.
My father, Machinist Mate (Automotive) second class Jimmy Jewell, USN, had cobbled enough liberty from his weekend pass and his Seabee friends’ passes to get from Gulfport, Miss. to Lebanon for the birth. His stay was very short.
It was 1944, 70 years ago. A war was going on, and he couldn’t stay. He had things to do in the Western Pacific.
So this past Sunday, I returned to the Southwest corner a 70-year officially old man.
I don’t feel old. Sure, I have more aches and pains and take a whole bunch of prescriptions I used not to take. There are joints that creak a bit. It’s harder to lose weight. I can’t run as fast or as far. Too many Lebanon friends didn’t make it to this age. But I don’t feel old.
However, seven zero gives me a different feel.
In the Spanish language, adjectives follow the noun rather than precede it as in English. For 69 years, I have been the noun (sometimes the verb). Now as in Spanish, I follow the noun. I am no longer the noun or the verb. I am an adjective.
While in Austin, I observed my children and fully accepted they are grown women. My son-in-law will turn 44 on Thursday. When I turned 44, I was two years from Navy retirement (sic), was running half-marathons, and traveling extensively conducting leadership seminars for senior officers.
Not now. Now, I help my adopted tugboat company a little, and I write. I am an adjective, a Spanish adjective following the noun. I am now the old man telling his stories to the young boy, just like my surrogate grandfather and great uncle in reality, Wynn Prichard, told to me in the rocking chair on that farmhouse porch out on Hickory Ridge.
My stories are of the past. My children are the adults of the present. My grandson is the hope of the future. My children and grandson are the nouns and verbs. I am the adjective.
Of course, there have been numerous times in my life when I announced I was finally grown up, an adult. I thought so when I was 16 in Lebanon. I was convinced until around the mid-20s when I realized how much I didn’t know.
At 40, recently married, and in the middle of the Indian Ocean, I declared I was grown up. It didn’t take.
When I retired from the Navy and my younger daughter was born in 1989, I announced I was grown up. Nope. When I turned 50, my wife threw a big party to hail my becoming an adult. No way.
When I reached 65, the government dictated retirement age at the time, another declaration. It lasted a little while.
So perhaps this is only as old man’s chant. Perhaps I am just beginning my second (or third or fourth) childhood.
Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.