On the first day of class the professor introduced himself and challenged the students to get to know someone they didn’t already know. A young man in his late teens stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched his arm. He turned around to find a petite, wrinkled, lady beaming up at him with a smile that lit up his entire being.
She said, ‘Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?’
He laughed enthusiastically, ‘Of course you may!’ and despite her frail appearance, she gave him a giant squeeze.
‘Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?’ he asked.
She gave him a sly smile, ‘I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids.’
‘No, seriously.’ He was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.
‘I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!’
After class they walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. The friendship was instant. Every day for the next three months they would leave class together and talk nonstop. He was always mesmerized, listening to this virtual time machine as she shared her wisdom and experience.
Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her by the other students. She was living it up.
At the end of the semester, Rose was invited to speak at the football banquet. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she was about to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three-by-five note cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and simply said, ‘I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me!’ The audience roared. ‘I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know.’
As the laughter subsided, she cleared her throat and began, ‘We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.
‘There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.
We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change; to have no regrets. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what they did, but rather for things they did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.’
She concluded her speech by courageously singing The Rose.
She challenged each of the attendees to study the lyrics and live them out in their daily lives. At the year’s end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those months ago.
One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.
Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.
Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower and you, its only seed.
It’s the heart, afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.
It’s the dream, afraid of waking that never takes the chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken, who cannot seem to give.
And the soul, afraid of dying that never learns to live.
When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong.
Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose.
What Defines Me
Like Rose, I got my college degrees late in life. At age 60 and 61, I received my Bachelors and Masters degrees. If you scroll down the true story above, you will see a highlighted paragraph. I have lived that philosophy since I was a kid. It has always been the beacon in both my successes and failures. It hasn’t made me rich, and it hasn’t always protected me from heartache and pain, but it always keeps my stress level down, and it contributes to my happiness. It has brought me a wonderful life partner. And as a result, I am a happy person.
I turned 80 last May, and as I approached that milestone, I founded a new company – an Internet-based firm that sold a water-saving consumer product. Unfortunately, the pandemic and insufficient investment funds caused the company to fail. But I moved on.
At the end of the summer, Sara and I traveled 700 miles to relocate to a new city and bought a new home. I have now lived in five states and Sara has lived in four, plus two countries.
In the fall, I met with my friend, Nick DeSimone and together we wrote an outline and other components for a television series, and when the country recovers from Covid, hopefully, we will conclude that project and have it produced.
This winter, I completed a new novel, my best work yet. The book launch is April 5. Also, over the winter, I’ve been studying and learning the independent-publishing market, making a commitment to be a successful author in this rapidly changing environment. I continue to write my blog, documenting the humorous observations that surround us all. And after an 18-year hiatus, I’m going skiing in March.
So, join me in my quest to find laughter, sharing it with everyone we know, and keeping our dreams alive. We will be happier and live longer. And the world will be a better place.