I was talking to my friend Kevin last week. Kevin and I have ventured through our public education careers with similar jobs as teachers, high school principals, and finally as superintendents. He has been a mentor and a friend for over 30 years, and I truly appreciate our bond and understanding of one another. Kevin has been asking me about my experiences in this new retirement phase, and he has recently decided to retire from his superintendent position. Last week, we were talking about what not working 60 to 70 hours a week is like. He said, “Don’t let the old man in, right?” I got what he was saying, but did not know the context. Now that I know, it’s worth sharing.
In a golf pairing I wish I could have joined, country music star Toby Keith was playing with multiple-Academy Award-winning actor/director Clint Eastwood. Keith marveled at Eastwood’s persistence, as Eastwood had just filmed yet another movie, The Mule, at the age of 88. Eighty-eight! He asked Eastwood how he does it, and Eastwood remarked, “I just get up every morning and go out. And I don’t let the old man in.” That inspired Keith to write and sing Don’t Let the Old Man In, a song which is featured in The Mule.
Can’t leave it up to him
He’s knocking on my door
I’ve written before about my appreciation for Younger Next Year, which encourages all of us over a certain age (it starts at 40!) to push ourselves hard physically to keep our bodies from aging so quickly. Chris Crowley, the author, is not talking about our graying hair or our wrinkles, which is good because I have both! He’s talking about taking care of ourselves and fighting off the old man as long as possible. Through hard exercise and good nutrition, we can swim against the relentless tide of decay and “change decay back into growth.”
Get up and go outside,
Don’t let the old man in.
Having children has helped me to stay young. Without question, my sons have kept me on my toes for the last 31 years. I have listened hard to learn their interests, joys, and fears, read the books and watched the movies they wanted to read and see, competed with them in the games they want to play (side note: my children have beaten me at many games, but I never once let them win. They knew they earned it when they won), and ate the food they wanted to eat. I did not see an In-n-Out 4×4 or a gazillion milk shakes on the Younger Next Year or Noom nutrition list, but sometimes you just have to say, “What the heck?”
And just because I’m an empty nester, don’t think that my children are still not a huge part of my life. My older son told me many years ago, “Dad, you act a lot younger than you are. I like it, but it’s different.” My sons will be keeping me young for a long time and I’m grateful.
Ask yourself how old you would be,
If you didn’t know the day you were born
In the meantime, I’m focusing on learning and improving. I’ve already sat down and learned how to play and sing this song. I’m loving writing, helping out at home, and I’m doing my best to keep up with the craziness in public education. My wife joked (kind of) about how nice it is to have so much help at the house – and that she loves this new role in my life. I’m taking that as a compliment, and I’m staying on it. It’s all part of the never-ending effort to live life fully and stay young.
Try to love on your wife
And stay close to your friends
Toast each sunset with wine
Don’t let the old man in
And I know that all of this can be sideswiped by something awful, and that life holds no guarantees. But I plan to enjoy the journey as much as possible, and to see what life brings. I’m loving today, and looking forward to tomorrow.
So thanks to Toby Keith and Clint Eastwood for their artistry and inspiration, and thanks to my friend Kevin for sharing this song with me – Kevin is young at heart and I know his wife and family will keep him that way for years and years. May you all do the same.
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- The background for this article came from a Billboard Magazine article by Cathy Applefeld Olson and the photo by Eric Charbonneau. You can find the article here.
- If you want to hear and see the music video for the song, with a whole lot of Clint Eastwood, check it out here.