Growing older, but not up


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



It sounds boring. It sounds like something an old guy would say, but here it is: Debbie and I usually go grocery shopping on Friday evening. It has become such a weekly tradition we now refer to it as date night.

I have to admit that is pretty sad. About 30 years ago our Friday night date night usually involved dinner, drinks, dancing, fun with friends and getting home in the wee-wee hours of the morning.

Oh, my. How times have changed.

I still think of myself as being fairly young (at least young of heart) and somewhat adventurous, but upon deeper reflection, those days are gone. I still love listening to Jimmy Buffett as he sings about the islands, the joys of youth and partying. One of my favorite Buffett songs is entitled, “Growing Older but Not Up.”

I love the lyrics. “I’m growing older, but not up. My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck. So, let the winds of change blow over my head. I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

There’s no doubt about it. I’m getting older. I’m feeling older and looking older.

This coming Friday, I will get smacked right between the eyes with year-number-69. That’s not too worrisome. It’s what happens next year that sounds scary.

I’ll turn 70 years old in 2020. Whew! That’s a lot of years.

It’s not unusual for someone to stop me on our weekly date-night at Kroger and make a nice comment about one of these Wilmington News Journal columns. It’s always appreciated and somewhat humbling.

But a few months ago, a sweet lady told me that I needed to update my picture. She said, “It makes you look a lot younger than you really are.”

Well, thank you, nice lady.

Admittedly, I have grown several years older since that picture was taken and it does show. I’ve had a beard for the past two years.

Before I grew the beard, some people would accuse me of coloring my hair. I would almost always laugh and say, “If I colored my hair, don’t you think I would do something about these gray eyebrows.”

Now, it’s not just the eyebrows, it’s the whole beard that is gray.

I can thank my Papaw Bridges for the hair. His name was Harry Bridges and he was indeed hairy. When Papaw died, he had a headful of dark hair with a few gray hairs thrown it. He didn’t have salt-n-pepper hair. It was pepper-n-salt, with only a dash of salt. Luckily, I got his genes for hair.

Every one of these gray whiskers have been earned. There has been a lot of sadness and challenges in my 69 years, but those sad years and every one of those sad-grey whiskers are greatly outnumbered by the whiskers I’ve earned having adventures, having fun and sharing the thrills and joys of life with family and friends.

Harry S Truman was president when I was born. I’m now on my 13th president. Some presidents have been very popular. Some have been impeached. A few have been shot since I was born.

I am often stunned by how much things have changed since Harry S was president and Adda Belle Riley gave birth to that little baby boy named Randy on October 11, 1950.

In 1950 the average new house cost $8,450. You could buy a new car for $1,510. You could pump gas into that car for only 18 cents a gallon. For $3 you could fill the gas tank. The median family income was only $3,000 a year.

Bread and milk were delivered to your door by a delivery man. I remember the Sunbeam Bread Man who stopped at our house always reminded me of Captain Kangaroo.

We had a huge, boxy TV with a very small black-and-white screen. That’s how I knew what Captain Kangaroo looked like. We loved the Captain at our house. Thank goodness his show was on one of the two channels our little TV received.

But we learned many good values from The Captain, Mr. Greenjeans, The Mickey Mouse Club and all of our friends who visited with Howdy Doody.

Like everyone else, I am certainly growing older, but as Jimmy Buffett sang — I refuse to grow up. The winds of change will continue to blow and life will go on despite the accumulation of gray hair and gray whiskers.

Maybe this Friday Debbie will take me out for my birthday dinner. Thank goodness, she won’t have to cut my meat for me.

At least, not this year.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist