Where did those 50 years go?


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



It has been said that life is like a roll of toilet paper — the closer you get to the end, the faster it spins.

OK, that may be an unpleasant analogy, but it does make a point. It certainly seems that, the older we get, the quicker time seems to roll by.

A few weeks ago, I drove to Germantown to meet with some high school buddies to start planning our 50th high school reunion. As we sat around laughing, as we called each other old hippies, none of us could believe that our spring graduation in 1968 could possibly have been 50 years ago.

Next month, we will gather with other alumni from Germantown and Valley View to laugh and remember those long-ago days when we were young and carefree, with our futures spread out before us.

Ours was the very last class to graduate from Germantown High School. The following year, 1969, was the first graduating class from Valley View High School, but the two high schools have always shared the same alumni association.

We also shared many of the same experiences growing up in Germantown and Farmersville. The two small, rural communities seem to be frozen in time.

Watching old episodes of “Happy Days” brings back the memories of our youth. I can still identify with Richie and The Fonz. I can still identify with the characters from “Father Knows Best,” “Leave it Beaver,” “Dennis the Menace,” and “Ozzie and Harriet.”

Those shows make me feel … strangely comfortable and at home. They were the comforting shows from the early years of my childhood.

Then things changed — 1968 was a turning point in our history and our society.

President Johnson had championed legislation that was supposed to provide equal rights for all, and equal rights did not come without pain. I can vividly recall news scenes of people marching for their right to vote. Then water cannons would blast them and roll them down the sidewalk. Police dogs were released to attack the peaceful protesters. It was a horrid reality.

Many people would still argue that we haven’t achieved true equal rights for everyone. They would be right. It’s an ongoing battle for many citizens. Many people living in the United States are still not treated with respect and dignity. Many issues that were addressed long ago have still not been resolved.

It has also been said that getting old isn’t for sissies. Wow. That sure is true. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my research about growing old.

Fifty years ago, acid-rock bands grow out of the hard-hitting garage bands that seemed to sprout up in almost every neighborhood. Now we worry more about acid reflux than we do acid rock.

We saw many of our friends moving from southwest Ohio to California and Texas because it was cool to live there. Now, my friends are moving there because it’s warm.

Fifty years ago, we spent a lot of time looking for great joints where could have fun. Now, we spend time looking for a good place to get our joints replaced so we can continue to walk and have fun.

I had friends who spent time and lots of money trying to have a really nice BMW. Some of those same old friends would now give almost anything just to have a really nice BM.

I failed my driver’s test the first time I took it. Now, I worry about passing the vision portion of the test whenever I get my license renewed.

I have to admit that by this age my wild oats have all been sown. Now, I’m focusing more on prunes and bran.

Afternoon naps are once again becoming a precious commodity. I’ve told my friends on the Wilmington Life Squad to double-check me if Debbie should ever call them. I’ve been taking some pretty heavy naps lately, and they feel great!

When I’m lying on the couch, I’m really out. I told the EMTs to always check for a pulse

What really makes me feel old is thinking about the folks who were celebrating their 50-year reunion when I graduated in 1968. They would have graduated from high school in 1918. That seems like forever ago.

I’m also been thinking about the serenity prayer for senior citizens.

“God, grant me the serenity to forget the people I never liked, the good fortune to run into the people I do like and the eyesight to tell the difference.”

Despite my new senior citizen status and my approaching 50-year class reunion, I have no plans to just roll over and die. I definitely plan to keep busy – to keep on moving.

Like Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and a local resident of more than 40 years.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist