Growing Older by the Minute…


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Damn, how I hate growing old. I am definitely not the very first person to make such a statement as at one time or another, every living human being has probably uttered those words in countless different languages.

Why is growing old such a problem? First of all, I am nowhere near as strong as I used to be. The rocks that I placed around the ponds have grown in weight since I put them there  a few years back and now I really struggle to move them around when I need to. As if that was not enough, the weight of the world has made me round shouldered and now I am shorter by more than an inch. On the other hand, I have had no problem at all in adding to my weight to the extent that I had to go on a diet to drop from 183 pounds to 155. Even now, it is a struggle to maintain it at this level. Then there are the aches and pains. Why do my joints ache and why do the few remaining muscles I have that are still working protest loudly when I try to use them.

There is nothing wrong with my eyesight as I still love to look at pretty girls especially if they are well endowed. Nowadays, I appreciate their beauty and the grace in which they move but unfortunately for me,  the long lasting desires of the flesh are no longer present. In my case beauty is in the eye of the beholder ….me. Of course, I have to be careful not to be caught staring otherwise I am labelled as a dirty old man. Wait a minute, I am a dirty old man.  So sad that this is all that remains…

I watch the professional soccer players on the television and marvel at the way they move and I remember when I played the game, not at their level but enough to make me pretty good. Nowadays, I doubt if I could run away from turtle if one turned rogue and decided to chase me.

One good thing about growing old is all of the accumulated experiences of the previous years along with all of the knowledge gained through a lifetime results in a treasure chest of information on just about every subject under the sun. The trouble is that trying to recall any of that information is iffy at the best as it’s probably long gone, buried deep in the annals of my mind, never to see the light of day when it is needed the most.

So here we have it. Creaky bones and a mind that has difficulty in recalling times of any real importance. I can still tell you the name of the kids I grew up with but I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. I can no longer run and jump and my fastest walking pace is probably less than 1 mile per hour. On the other hand, I can walk forever as long as it is at my slow pace.

So, what good am I you might ask. Good question and one that requires some thought to answer. I can still maintain the ponds and do any work on them that is required including moving the above mentioned rocks as heavy as they are. I can still walk for miles even in the hot sun as I am already wrinkled and shrivelled up even when coated in sun block so the sun is not going to spoil any semblance of looks that I still have. LIke I said before, I don’t need good looks as I am not interested in charming the ladies. I take pretty good pictures  and a lot of them and know how to present them. My mind works just fine in front of a computer and I have no trouble in writing stories about those long walks I take. My two remaining dogs love me…. I think, unless they view me just as a meal ticket and the cat is so old, I am not sure she even knows who I am anymore. My house is paid for and I own a little piece of Texas and I am comfortably enough off to be able to buy groceries and any small stuff when I need it.

So, what the hell is wrong with me worrying about growing old. Everyone and everything grows old as time marches on. There is no stopping its forward march. It has been this way since the beginning and if and when it changes, it will be the end of the World.

Luckily, I will not be around to see it.

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Remembering…


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It seems to me as I grow Old
I remember things that I was told
years ago when I was young
things Fathers say to a son.

Most of them are in my mind
thoughts remembered of all kinds
about girls and guns and football games
and growing up and carrying his name.

Hunting tips and fishing lures
what to take the best of cures
for drinking too much and feeling the pain
that happens when you lose the game.

Words of wisdom of the kind
to help get past a difficult time
that being old and knowing so well
things that only time can tell.

Did I listen to my Dad
as he passed along what words he had
to help me as I grew old
knowing that I couldn’t be told.

Probably some words got through
saving me from mistakes anew
but others forgotten at the time
and the consequences were all mine.

When I look back at what he said
and think of the life that I lived instead
with things my way without a thought
of the things that He had taught.

One bad thing with being young
is we knew it all when we had fun
even though we heard the word
to us they sounded so absurd.

Now I am old and time passed by
I think of the words he did cry
and now understand just how wise
for he was not telling me lies.

If I had only been as smart
to listen and heed with my heart
life would have been a much simpler task
for those whose lives touched mine in the past.

My Dad is long gone from this life
away from the trials and the strife
but I remember the things he told
although too late for I’m much too old.

Looking Back at the End of the Year…


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Reminiscing of days gone by
sitting under gloomy skies
of things that happened this past year
as it goes out with a bang and a mighty cheer.

Eighty years of time on this earth
were given to me last January
all of my friends gathered around
as we had food and drink and good company.

I hiked a lot and spent time
walking with friends which I thought fine
although most of the time I hiked alone
the closer to Nature that I have shone.

I spent time outside in my yard
working on ponds and on my guard
for Nature’s sometimes unwelcome guests
ants and bugs and snakes and pests.

I lost a few of the very large Koi
as Nature chose its strength to deploy
who lives who dies and who is born
in Nature it is the perfect norm.

I lost two dogs and gained one back
to add into the little pack
as Nature decided their time had come
as she took them to her heavenly home.

I made new friends and met new folks
and passed the time with talk and jokes
and on any given day
would be out in the Parks just walking away.

I dreamed my dreams of days gone by
much younger then and trying to defy
any sign of growing old
as my strength and youth I did behold.

Alas just dreams were all they seemed
as I creaked and groaned my way redeemed
back to the reality of the time
with muscles sore but feeling fine.

I can no longer run and jump
or kick a ball as I’m over the hump
as Nature treats me as her own
as she decides when my time will come.

I am grateful that I can still walk
and that my brain still works and I can still talk
both with my voice and with my pen
for that I don’t need to be young again.

I am glad that I can say that
I lived another year this way
Another birthday is coming fast
as I count the days, will it be my last?

Even if I had the choice to tell
I think that I would repel
knowing when my time is come
to make that journey into the sun.

So all the while I feel this good
and that I can walk and write a book
I am happy this way is my life
and look forward to a year without strife.

.

Kicking a ball…


rangers getting coached right

Half Time Talk

When I was a kid and still very young
my whole idea of having fun
was to get with my mates and kick a ball
and the girls would cheer and watch us run
no interest in them that I can recall.

Moving along in just a few years
my mates and I still kicked the ball
but this time we tried to impress the girls
hoping that one would not like them all
but pick one of us that was most enthralled.

As time moved on the girls came first
as many of us settled down
married with kids not much time for games
life was never ever the same
on weekends we still got together and kicked a ball

Further on down the line
marriages failed and its alimony time
visit the kids once a month
and maybe take them to one of our games
this time in the older guys league we played.

Time has passed and the kids have grown
and they all play in a league of their own
trying to impress the watching girls
choosing a mate as life unfurls
and it all starts with kicking a ball.

Now I am old and life has passed by
the closest I come to kicking a ball
is to cheer on my team as I watch them play
thinking of what were the good old days
when we were just starting along our way.

“Football, English Style is good for the soul”

 

What a party.


12649730-Party-items-on-blue-background-Stock-Photo-party-birthday-kidsAs I reported in an earlier blog a couple of days ago, I have just had my 80th birthday. A week or so prior, one of my friends called to ask what I was doing and “how about we get a couple of the Allies together and go to dinner”.

The Allies, for those of you not familiar with my background, was a very competitive adult women’s soccer team that was formed more than 25 years ago. I had both the luxury and frustration of coaching them for many of their years. The original team when we first put the team together prior to 1983 was named after the Redstone Ranch who sponsored the team in its early days. The original idea was to try to raise the competitive level of soccer in Austin with a team that could compete against both the Houston and Dallas teams at all levels. As the team evolved over the years, it changed the name to the “Austin Allies” later dropping Austin from the name to become the “Allies”.

The players were constantly changing and the team went through several reiterations of itself before settling on a group of highly talented and dedicated players willing to work hard, train hard and play even harder. There were a couple of players that came over from Sweden to play for us for a couple of years and we often had really good players that would come in and guest play for us in the major tournaments. The team was made up of players from different nationalities and we didn’t care what nationality that was or how young or old they were as long as they could play”the beautiful game”. This group stuck together for many years and indeed a few of the players are still playing. The team has maintained its name and for the past several years, has competed in the Austin Women’s Soccer League having recruited a bunch of new and younger players as the time went on. A far cry from when they competed in the Over 30 division of the local men’s soccer league in order to have stronger weekly competition that the then current local women’s teams could provide.

Many of this original group were the ones planning this little get together of “just a couple of friends”. Knowing Suzanne, the player who had called me originally, I kinda suspected that she and the rest of them, were not going to be satisfied with just a couple of them showing up and when I walked into  Flores Mexican Restaurant on William Cannon, there were more than 15 or so of them there. It was great to be greeted by so many smiling faces and lots of hugs and kisses and just a few tears, including my own. My friends George and  Gloria and later her daughter all showed up to add to the excitement. Gloria told me later that they had been a part of the organization of this party with it originally going to be at her house.

With the greetings out-of-the-way, the stories started to flow as some of the girls recounted the things they remembered most about some of our travels and the games we had played in. It was difficult to spend time with everyone and I know that I missed a few people and I apologise for that. Most of them are married with kids and all of them look really good and it was not hard to believe that they had been and in some cases, still are, super athletes in their younger days. At least 3 of the ladies have daughters of their own getting ready to enter college and hoping for soccer scholarships. They are that good as their mothers skills have been handed down to them.

As with all social get together of this kind, the stories came thick and fast of the many places we had been for tournaments and the magical moments that had occurred at some of them, not all of which were on the playing field. Stories like the time we won the Texas State Cup when we beat our local rivals, a team called Thunder coached by Ray Iddendun in penalty kicks after our full back, “Pecker” had tied the game up in the dying minutes of overtime sending the game into those penalty kicks.  Our goalkeeper, Lisa saved 2 of Thunders first 3 kicks with the other one going wide. We made all 3 of ours to win. Much different than when we went to Corpus Christi for a tournament and it went to 12 kicks each side before we won.

Or when we played a team from Florida in one of the National Championships who had a very large, very tall and very talented center forward that our team had nicknamed “The House”and Suzanne, who at the time probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet, had the very difficult task of trying to contain her.

A special mention must be made of one tournament we went to that another of our players had flown in separately to join us. We all partied the night before the last days worth of games and one of our group, had a little too much to drink. She played the next day with a hangover and I swear that the other girls had to point her in the direction of the goal that we were trying score in. She managed to get through the game with regular intervals to throw up on the pitch much to the other teams disgust. We won the game and maybe the throwing up gave us the edge as the other team didn’t want to get near her. We took her to the airport as she was flying home on a separate flight and the last we saw of her was her forlorn looking figure as she made her still hungover way to catch her return flight. When we returned to practice the following week, the big story was Laurie’s hangover and it took a while for her to live it down.

The stories went on and on and then someone mentioned “the van”. For the uninformed, the van was a big Blue Ford converted van that we used to drive to many of these fairly local games and tournaments. Places like Beaumont, Corpus Christi, New Orleans and such. There would be as many as 7-8 young women all crowded together and me, the only male as the driver. Well, I might just as well have been made of stone or maybe, not even have existed, when the ladies got wound up especially if someone had brought beer. The things I heard would have made their mothers blush or even worse, be shocked that their darling daughter could talk about such things and in such a descriptive way. They would have been more shocked to know that in many of the stories, they were recounting actual things that had happened either to them or with them. Me, I just sat there and smiled occasionally at any particular juicy piece came out. I have always said that I can do one of two things. Either write a bestseller entitled, The Van, You Wouldn’t Believe What I Just Heard… or I could just plain blackmail the girls for me to keep quiet. It was all good fun and passed many miles of otherwise tedious journeys which by the way were never straight through as with all of that beer, it required many pit stops sometimes with only a solitary tree or a bush in sight.

There was a lot of picture-taking with the new fangled cell phones and funny hats and glasses which I noticed that I was the only one wearing. Whats up with that? There were presents and a cake that luckily only had a dozen or so candles and not the required number of 80, which I managed to blow out at one time.

As the evening wound down and after enjoying the very good Mexican Food from Flores Restaurant, the girls began to leave in one’s and two’s all coming to say goodbye and kiss me on the cheek and give me a hug. Some whispered thanks in my ear  and I had to fight hard to keep the tears from flowing as did they. Finally, those remaining gathered together for a last group photo rich with the memories of days gone by and years lost in time. We all have our own memories of those wonderful times with such a talented group of young ladies. It must be said that my own marriage had ended in the early days of this team and having the friendship of all of these ladies helped me get through those difficult times.

As a team, the ladies and I travelled to many tournaments at the State and National level managing to reach the National Finals twice only to lose both of them. There were many successes over about a 10 year period. I coached those ladies until the year 2000 when I decided to move on to coaching youth. I have to say, that it was just not the same. Different challenges, different ages, some successes but not the same camaraderie that had developed with the Allies and no Blue Van.

When we are young, time is something we do not even think about. As we grow older, it becomes more important because we realize that it is slowly running out. All of us that gathered together this evening to recount those memories of times gone by are all a lot richer for having been a part of them. These are memories that I cherish and will carry with me to my grave.

Thank you ladies for allowing me to be a part of your lives.


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My Life at 80


Francis

Francis at 80

Today is my 80th birthday. That by itself is quite an achievement. Many years ago, I would never have guessed in a million lifetimes that I would make it this far what with the drinking which probably should have killed me in a car crash or something worse like falling off a cliff and the many irate husbands all wishing to do me harm for messing around with their women.

But, be that as it may, I am 80 years old which got me looking back on some of the high and low points of my life as best I can remember.

It was the 20th of January, 1936 when I came kicking and screaming into to this world that was shortly to be involved in another World War. Growing up in a little place called Old Heathfield, we were right in the flight path of the German planes and Doodlebugs as they came over in swarms at the early part of the war. When that was over, my next memories were of thousands of troops all massing for the invasion of Europe and all located around the neighborhood that I lived in. I even got to meet my future stepfather although I was too young to know it at the time. I can remember being on Spotter Watch at school when we had to ring the handbell if we spotted any German planes.

I was the youngest by 10 years of a family of 4, 3 boys and 1 girl. Being that much younger and it being wartime, I never really grew up with a family as all 3 of them were serving in the armed services somewhere in the world.

I was a bright kid, much different than later in life when I thought school work was a bore. I took and passed what was known as the 11 plus exam which sorted the smart kids out from the rest and then the smart ones got to go a Grammar School. Prior to taking my place at the Grammar School, my mother left my father and I didn’t see her again for 20 years as she made the trip to marry her G.I. across the water in the USA.

Things went from bad to worse as my father re-married to a lady who really didn’t have much time for me and that ended with me moving in with one of my Aunts and Uncle for a few months. It wasn’t long before I moved again, this time to live with my sister in Hailsham. In the meantime, my Aunt lost her husband who had been sick and she couldn’t live with the guilt of her nagging him all the time and stuck her head in a gas oven.

I graduated early from the Grammar School as I was wasting my time there and went into the construction industry as a Bricklayer Apprentice. The man who was teaching me the job, contracted T.B. and died and I moved around a couple of other companies as I continued to learn my trade. I was smart enough and had a gift for building things and learnt as much as I could about other trades as I possibly could. I was always watching and asking questions and this proved very helpful later in life as I was never out of work.

At 20, I got married to the love of my life and we had two beautiful boys. Being present and watching their births was probably the most wonderful and awe inspiring thing I have ever witnessed. A bit messy though…That marriage lasted 4 years and she left and I hit a bad spell for a while. I worked for a pipe line company and travelled around a lot and apart from the boys who hardly saw me, had few responsibilities.

Then I got involved with a married woman with kids whose husband was a sergeant in the British Army. It didn’t take long for him to put me in hospital and I deserved it. The saving factor to that whole episode is that we eventually got married, gained custody of her 3 kids and had one of our own, a daughter than we named Leslie.

The biggest thing in my life was the choice and opportunity to emigrated to the USA at my mother’s urging. As it happened, although the entire family embraced the idea, as the years progressed, it turned out not to be a good move for the family as my wife was very homesick and we were having difficulties. We were stuck there and had to make the best of it and eventually, the pressures got too great. In truth, I didn’t want to move back which didn’t help the situation. That marriage finally ended 15 years after we got married.

Then I met a much younger woman and we eventually got married and moved to Texas. We never had any kids as she preferred dogs and horses which was fine by me. Needless to say, one day she announced she was leaving and that was the end of that after another 15 years. Talk about 3 strikes and you’re out. On the other hand, not having someone to care for or be responsible for has its benefits. No honeydews for starters and I don’t have anyone telling me what to do or how to spend my money and the only bad and grumpy people are me.

With the move to Texas, I did land a good job at the University of Texas which set me up for when I retired and spent 22 fairly happy years working there.

It seemed that I was never destined to  be a married person. After 3 attempts I never tried it again and now it is way too late. I am way too selfish and stuck in my ways for any woman to put up with me. Now, I live with my dogs and cats and spend my time looking after the ponds that I built in my garden and in between, hike as much as I can at the various parks around Austin. I have even built a website for the local Pond Society which is where most of my friends and acquaintances are now and have totally embraced the age of computers, cell phones and men on the moon.

Years ago, I was quite the athlete and a very good soccer player. That was my main interest in life and I played until I was 72 and the knees gave out. I also was very interested in helping to run and organize the different leagues and teams that I coached from the youth all the way through an Adult women’s team that made it to the National Finals, twice. Now, the only soccer in my life is watching the English Premier League on the TV and supporting my main team, Manchester United.

When I look back over my life, it seems that I have done an awful lot in the time I have been alive. I have had good jobs and have always stayed busy. I have kept myself fit and quit drinking almost 10 years ago. I work out and I hike a lot and eat right. I plan on staying alive as long as I can but when that time comes, I won’t be happy but there will not be much I can do about it. My Mother lived until she was 94 and my sister in Florida is 90 in May so I’m hoping I have their genes.

Right now, I am looking forward to the next 10 years. Happy Birthday.

Francis at 20

Boy, He sure looks old…


Growing Old

Growing Old

It seems to me as I grow older, that others all around are not changing. Of course that is not true as they are aging too but because we see them frequently, we do not notice their changes. Then, I will run into someone I haven’t seen in a while and I look at them and say to myself, “Boy, he sure looks old”. They, in turn, the minute I am out of earshot are saying the same thing. That’s after having both greeted each other with a,”You are looking good, how are you feeling?” or words to that effect. In turn, we always respond with “I’m feeling great, just great”, all the time trying to forget the various aches and pains  and creaky bones and joints that old age brings on us. And lets not forget that all the while you are talking to them, you are scratching your head and racking your brains to remember their name.The way I see it, you  can give the standard response when asked how you are or bore them to death with a litany of the most recent health issues. The problem with the latter approach is that you are opening up the door for them to load on you. Besides, most people will not hear you out as they impatiently want to share their various issues. Funny how that is.

Then I hear of a long time friend who is either sick from an incurable disease or has already succumbed to one. The people who die are all about the same age as ourselves which really gets me thinking, and if one poor unfortunate is younger by a few years, then the immediate thoughts are, “Well, I outlived him (or her)” almost with a feeling of triumph. It is to be expected that none of us age alone. It is not something that any of us has a monopoly on nor would we want to.

But even so, it still comes as a shock when we hear of a friend who is mortally ill and has only days to live. As we grow older, the people around us are doing the same which, of course is only logical as aging is not the personal property of any one of us. We cannot claim ownership or believe that we are the only ones with the divine right to grow old. What is worse, we have no choice in the matter. We cannot say, “Not today, I am not growing a day older today, maybe tomorrow”.

No, my friends, it is happening to us all and even though some of us may show it more (or less) than others, we are all aging at exactly the same speed. So, the next time that you bump into someone who you haven’t seen in a while, remember, you are both probably thinking the exact same thing, “Boy, he sure looks old”.