I read the other day that only a couple generations ago, it was not unusual for lifespans to go just a little past 60. That makes the subject of this post all the more interesting.
My family does interesting things after age 50.
I was in seminary when my mother turned 50. She was living in Garden Creek, Virginia, a pastor’s wife for a couple of United Methodist Churches there in Buchanan County. I found out that she took a brave step and enrolled at Southwest Virginia Community College to begin work towards a degree. She moved soon afterwards to Fries, Virginia, along the New River in Grayson County, and finished her schooling at Wytheville Community College. She graduated with an associates degree. Her children were extremely proud of her for making this brave step. She had given up on school when she married our dad and found herself raising us three kids. First as a military wife, while my dad was in the US Air Force at Rantoul, Illinois (Chanute AFB), where my yankee sisters were born, then back to Scott County, Virginia where I came along a little later, she made her life as a mother and homemaker. Those are not to be scoffed at as jobs either, mind you, but we were glad to cheer her on when she began to “set her foot down” to finish an education. She was able to make good grades, too. She was a studious learner. Later that degree helped her get hired as a legal secretary, in which capacity she worked until her retirement a few years ago.
Not to be outdone, my mother’s inspiring adventure at age 50 compelled my oldest sister to also start learning in the more mature years of life. Having raised her two sons, part of the time as a pastor’s wife in Harlan, KY, and later back at Kingsport, she entered a nursing program at ETSU, where she finished upon her 50th year, and took honors. She now works as an RN for the Wellmont system in Kingsport.
My other sister, upon getting her five kids all grown up, began her long-anticipated career. The first to be educated in our family at Emory & Henry and Scarritt Colleges, she was equipped to be a church musician, and finally took to the choir loft and a Christian School as an instructor around the time she entered the 5th decade of life. She still teaches, plays an organ, leads a praise band, and directs singers in services at a Lutheran church in Hampton, Virginia.
Being the only boy in the family, my 50th birthday took me a different direction. I graduated with my doctorate from Memphis Theological Seminary the year before I turned 40, and kept preaching in churches to which I was appointed. But my health was deteriorating. Stresses of church leadership and poor self care had led me to a place where I was battling extremely high blood pressure by my 50th birthday. I was back up to a weight that was not healthy, having waged a lifelong battle in that area, seeing limited success getting it back off. On December 19th of that year I entered a CrossFit box in Bluefield, Virginia, where I began a journey toward health. I’m now 52 and have dropped 90 pounds, 10 inches in my waist size, and discontinued all blood pressure and cholesterol medication. I feel a great deal better and have energy I couldn’t have imagined before. The CrossFit community have lifted my spirits as well. My coach, Terry, and the group who work out with me at 5:45 am each weekday are constant inspirations. I even ran a 5K this past April for the very first time in my life. I came in around 36 minutes, which isn’t bad for a starter. I’ve even enjoyed dropping in on gyms in other towns when I’ve had to travel. The camaraderie is enticing, and I learn something each time I drop in.
All which is to say, even though people give us grief at those birthdays that end in “0” we can embrace new things and begin to live the next part of lives with gusto. Don’t be scared of a number. Dream big, and move forward. And AARP does give good discounts!