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A glance back shows a satisfying walk

I am now 75 years old, still 25 years away from a letter on White House stationery or a mention by weatherman Willard Scott on NBC's Today show. Yet, the party my wife and stepdaughter tossed for me was very nice and, later, it did set off some reflections on my part.

Back at the turn of the century, I would have been regarded as pretty ancient, but these days I am probably just entering my sophomore year of senior citizenhood.

So far, it has agreed with me. I've been able to continue to do some writing, pursue favorite hobbies, enjoy more than my share of travel _ some of it literally to the ends of the earth _ and have stayed healthy enough to enable my HMO to consider me a profitable patient. A bit of volunteering here and there along the way hasn't hurt either.

There are other pluses also. Several people at my birthday soiree told me that I certainly don't look 75. And, as might be expected, absolutely no one said that I do.

Attending the wedding of my niece up in New Jersey shortly after my natal day, I received more than my share of pats and kisses from young women who made me feel like a sort of composite grandparent _ a nice feeling.

It is no longer new that I am addressed as "sir" by anyone under 30 and am now and then regarded as an oracle of ageless wisdom, even though the wisdom is merely that old-fashioned something known more familiarly as common sense.

I find that I no longer get as riled up about some things as I once did. There is still a lot to get riled up about, but I've learned that in most things we get what we deserve.

If we complain about trash TV shows, we need only remember that they are on the airwaves because we watch them. If we are appalled about the huge salaries paid to professional athletes, we need only remember that we pay those salaries every time we attend a game in person or watch one on TV. If we ever stop for a while, the salaries might come back down to earth.

I don't compete in triathlons or win any dance contests, so I am no threat to Senior Olympics contestants. I do enjoy walking and, since I'm a theme-park buff, what better place to do it than say, the interesting hike from Space Mountain to Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom or once or twice around the circle of nations at Epcot? And if a big band concert happens to be scheduled that day, what more could anyone ask? My most satisfying walk was wading through 8 inches of icy surf to set foot on Antarctica.

There are some among my peers who suddenly get religion in their old age as if seeking to get a foot inside the Pearly Gates while there is still time. That is fine for them but as for me, I try to keep a grip on the only reality we know. That reality is that we are alone on a tiny planet where we can only do our best to ensure the survival of both our planet and our fellow inhabitants. Asking why we are here is as fruitless as asking why others are not here.

If you are seeking a glimpse of the future, you will find it in the eyes of our newest generation who, it seems to me at least, are bright enough and adaptable enough to retain their individualism despite computers, video games and all the other obstacles to a straightforward education.

Finally, I continue to march in step with Socrates and his idea of moderation in all things. It seems to work.

James Pettican is a retired journalist who lives in Palm Harbor.

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