On her 82nd birthday, the poet Maya Angelou woke up with joy in her heart and a twinkle in her eye. Here’s what she wrote in her online notebook that day: “82 is hot. 82 is fabulous. The best so far.” By choosing the words “so far”, she was leaving the door open for future adventures and, sure enough, she went on to experience a lot of them.
When my dad Augie turned 85, a couple people suggested that his reflexes were shot, and he should think about giving up his car keys. He responded by bundling his new wife Arline into his white Cadillac DeVille and driving from Seattle to Florida in the middle of winter. Five years later, on his 90th birthday, he and Arline drove to Montana and had a two-day celebration with Dad’s 92-year-old cousin Gene. (Car keys, my foot.)
On his 100th birthday, Steve Potter defied age, common sense and the fears of his daughter and two sons by bungee jumping from a 210 foot tower while several of his friends from the nearby San Diego Senior Service Center cheered him on from their wheelchairs.
Aside from losing his false teeth on the way down, Potter escaped unhurt. He said it wasn’t bravado that drove him to jump, it was the joy of the challenge and the fact that he felt compelled to set a good example for his two boys, who were only in their seventies and still had a long way to go.
Which reminds me: It’s interesting to note that the New Testament, and the Old Testament urge us to “finish our course with joy.” In that spirit I dedicate this blog to my good friend Toby Cowan who is one of the most joyful people and accomplished designers I know. Toby just celebrated his 70th birthday and still has pimples.
Clearly, when it comes to living an accomplished life, it’s what you do—not when you do it—that really counts. At age 7, Mozart wrote his first symphony. At 14, country singer LeAnn Rimes won her first two Grammies.. At 20, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook. At 25 Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech. At 47, Barack Obama was elected President. At 57 Ray Kroc founded MacDonald’s. At 78, Grandma Moses started painting. At 86 Ruth Rothfarb ran the Boston Marathon in just under five hours.
And then there’s Cal Evans. On his 104th birthday, Cal was interviewed by a Denver reporter. “Have you lived in Denver all your life?” asked the reporter. Cal just smiled and said, “Not yet, Sonny. Not yet.”