Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The game clock is running, no time-outs remaining

“Well, gents, we’ve made it to the fourth quarter.”

Unusual way to open a luncheon? Not if the youngest guy is nearing 70. Age has a way of helping you focus sometimes. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

The lunch was an impromptu gathering of men who had been meeting for a weekly lunch for nearly 30 years. When attendance fell to half a dozen, we finally relinquished our private room at the posh Headliner’s Club in downtown Austin. Attrition being what it is.

At its zenith, our group numbered 35-40 guys. The Thursday group never had a real name or stated purpose. We were not a religious group, although we kinda were. Nondenominational.

As you can imagine, we talked of many things over the years. Watched marriages fail and grandchildren come into the world. We were growing old together.

The rules were simple and few:
--you don’t have to say anything.
--but if you do, it has to be first person, personal not business.
--and nothing leaves the room.

Once, about 20 years ago, that last rule put me in a bind. Everyone knew I published Texas Weekly, the largest and oldest political newsletter in the state. One of our Thursday Group was a sitting member of the Texas Supreme Court. He confided to us that he had suffered a minor stroke that left him unable to read.

Unable to read! A member of the state supreme court unable to read! That’s news. And he looked right at me as he was sharing this story.

We trusted each other. Gradually, the judge regained his ability to read. While he was alive, I never revealed his secret struggle. Never published it to this day.

Let’s get back to yesterday’s luncheon: “Well, gents, we’ve made it to the fourth quarter.” That was the observation of one of our guys who happened to be a former All-American half-back.

We sat back on our bony butts – and smiled. We had, indeed, made it to the fourth quarter of life.

Then, we went around the table (there were six of us) and gently talked of aches and pains. It was real, not mawkish. Cataracts and cancer be damned. Ditto grizzled minds and shrinking bodies. Empathy, but no pity.

Life is still good. Damngood.

PS--My second pacemaker surgerythis month is tomorrow, Jan.15th. But I hope to see you next week. Meanwhile, if you want some really good reading on aging, check out this book review of a great book by a great 91-year-old broad. "Somewhere Towards the End." Click here.


Ken Martin said...

Thanks for the report, George, and for pointing me to the article about Diana Athill. She sounds like someone worth knowing.

The South Plainsman said...

Good one, George. Out here we have had a group that meets every Friday at noon for lunch, and have done so for thirty years.

It started out as a lunch for former district attorneys ( I was elected as a Democrat to the office 40 years ago), but even from the beginning we made an exception or two.

At one point a few years ago we had 50 years of service as DA represented at our lunches. Then one left town and later two others passed away.

So we expanded our group and now have some former assistant district attorneys and a former county attorney in the group, and even a retired court of appeals judge.

The rules are the same as yours. We are long past talking about old cases, but the stories are always interesting, even if they have been told before. That is one of the good things about aging. One can tolerate rehearing good stories.

Two of our group are well into their 80s, most of us around 70, and a couple of youngsters around 60.

One of our group had a malignant brain tumor, and was given 6 months to live....15 years ago. Most of us have had angioplasties or bypasses, or both.

But we keep chugging along, shooting for overtime. Life is, indeed, very good.

Anonymous said...

You are an honest journalist.That is what real professionals do: ethics above all. Great George...and I will think of you next week. Bill

The South Plainsman said...

I thought "honest journalist" was an oxymoron these days. lol

Anonymous said...

Good luck tomorrow, Dad. Jeff and I love you and will send the universe all good thoughts. Annie

Anonymous said...

You're in my prayers, George. God speed your recovery. Great story you told today. Wish there were more opportunities these days to actually use our brains for more than learning how to program the DVD player. -- Denise

Max Fischer said...

On behalf of all the Max Fischer Players, we extend our thoughts (many) and prayers (both denominational and non) your way. Be well.

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