Daylight savings time has come and gone. The darkness arrives early and often as November moves towards Thanksgiving. Whatever peace I’ve made with myself about living in the Northeast is put to the test this time of year. The golf clubs are stored, undershirts and sweaters are getting broken in, and my car starts getting tucked in the garage. The physical rituals of a coming winter have not varied much over the years but my mindset has become much more accepting of what’s ahead.
As my 59th November goes flying by, I find myself in unusual territory. I am happy golf season is over. I am looking forward to the next five months of focusing on business and writing. I am examining a perpetuation plan for my business that could lead to an exit strategy for myself. The idea, one which I pontificated upon endlessly, of spending most of the winter in the south has receded and is no longer a priority. Instead, I am embracing my life in the Hudson Valley. A place that will always be my home. I am sure now, that no matter where this next leg of my journey takes me I will manage to return to my valley and bathe in its seasons, its diversity, and its beauty. My wife Donna and I have discovered the joy of our children becoming adults. In a year that has presented many unexpected challenges, it has been my family; Mary Kate, Laura and Donna who have helped me see ahead with a new prospective. As the cold November rain falls outside my window I realize I must go back to the basics. I will get up earlier, I will make new contacts, I will work harder, I will plan better and I will find a way to win the battle for peace and serenity into my,”golden years.” (lol)
Being on the golf course has been a major part of my existence. I grew up playing golf, and I currently live adjacent to a golf course of which I am a partial owner. Recently I have reflected about whether or not it was time well spent. Most of these doubts have arisen out of my inability to play the game competitively at this stage of my life. In the last two years my golf handicap has gone from a five to an 11. Worse than the drop off in my play is the fact that I am consistent loser in my matches even at a higher handicap. My back hurts, I am missing fingers, my knees hurt, and my once mental unflappable toughness has alluded me. It has gotten so bad I have lost desire to play a game that has been an integral part of my schedule three days a week for the last 50 years.
I am rational enough to understand losing your golf game is not the end of the world but it doesn’t change the fact that I am feeling the pain. I am aware of what golf has given in my life. Most every friend I have, and just about all my clients, come through some sort of connection to golf. A plethora of lessons came through long days of chasing that little white ball around. This winter I will force myself to make some decisions: Hip replacement? Knee replacements? Back surgery? Maybe even some practice in the indoor range. But the real challenge for me and my relationship with golf will be about acceptance. Can I accept that I simply can’t perform the way I use to?
Spending time partaking in activities you want to do, including your work , is essential for a happy life. As this November is moving into 2020, and I approach the seventh decade of my life, I am feeling for the first time the pangs of being annoyed with day to day responsibilities of business. I have said to myself many times that retirement is not a place I want to end up but things always keep changing and I am facing a crossroad.
The hunger I once felt in my belly to earn the order, to be a top salesman and business owner are fading. Having up to 15 people who count on me for health insurance and to feed their families takes its toll on an independent Libertarian such as myself. The fact that a person that I was loyal to and trusted in the business for nearly 20 years left me abruptly has added to my recent malaise and disillusionment. Fortunately, I have built a relationship in the business with a young man who makes me confident that we can come up with a fair perpetuation plan together. I am confident this will all work itself out, but it does mean I have to pay attention to business for at least two more years. In a good way all this means I need to get up and prepare myself for another challenge. Things in this life don’t always go according to plan, that is if you even have a plan. lol.
My father will turn 85 November 27th. His mind is as sharp as a tack but his body has been failing him for the last few years. I spend as much time as I can with him these days. I call him on the phone daily and we go to dinner together at least once a week. I am cognizant that it will not be long before I am eulogizing him and I am desperate to ask him all the questions that the answers to, had been swept under the table. Why do you think you are estranged from your sister? Did you accomplish what you wanted to in this life? Do you wish you had done some things differently?
The two of us get in long, deep conversations that usually bring a tear to both of our eyes. Then he will say, “Rich, how many times do I need to tell you, I really don’t give a fuck anymore?” He’s told me before that he does regret not being introspective and that he did let life happen to him instead of attacking it. I tell him I need his wisdom and energy to help me through my final run. I ask him why he doesn’t say much back to my lengthy diatribe and he smiles and tells me “because I am confident that you have life figured out a little better than I did.” I feel awkward telling him about my recent physical and mental struggles revolving around my own aging process. He shakes his head and tells me how proud he has been of me all through my life and to stop whining. “Enjoy your family, it’s OK to be selfish now, and appreciate the time you have with your daughters.” Yeah, father knows best.
This year as Thanksgiving and the holidays are approaching I find myself making adjustments in the plans I had believed I would carry into my future. Spending winters in the warm climate is going to be put on the back burner for a few years. I am spending much of my thinking hours evaluating who I want be for the next 20 years. I know I am not the ambitious young man I once was. I need to plan a business exit strategy that of course involves success. No longer is golf and the south a priority to me. I understand that I have been lucky to have lived my life in the Hudson Valley and now don’t have a big desire to venture away from home for long periods of time. I see myself getting more involved in my daughters lives and can even envision the day I have a couple of grandsons. Money and moving up the company ladder are no longer my passions. I want to write, I want to continue to conduct interviews with extraordinary people with connections to the Hudson Valley. Mostly I want to write. I have a few more stories I want to tell about my life’s journey to find purpose and meaning. I’d like to think there is still enough introspection in me to create new stories. I want to tell the adventures of an average man who, when all is said and done, connected the clues of his travels through the maze of life and stood at the top of the mountain.
And so I will pick up the pieces from the last 59 years and head into another winter with a renewed sense of purpose. Throughout my life I have prided myself in being able to have a vision of the future in regards to myself. I see myself next spring, I see myself next fall, and I try to see myself five years from now. My vision has never turned out exactly how it looked in the past but by having a vision and doing the things you know it will take to see it through has made for many successful outcomes. As I peck away on this ides of November my vision is not as clear as it once was.
Shakespeare wrote “What’s past is a prologue.” In the last year of my life I am understanding the Bard’s words with a deeper meaning. Everything that I have seen, everything that has happened to me, and all the knowledge I have acquired has set me up for this moment to write the final script. I am done making promises to myself because I doubt my drive to fulfill them. In the few instances I go easy on myself, I accept my flaws; I have always looked for the easiest way through this life, I have not been appreciative enough of all the blessings that have come my way, and mostly I worry about coming up short on my mission in this existence.
I realize I have had the opportunities, I have the talent, and I have a good heart. Still I wake up in the November darkness sweating. What did I miss? There are so many areas I could have done better. Will I ever be able to put the words down that make me feel worthy. Good old November, my least favorite month of the year. But this November I am ready to start over. If you bump into me in April you may not recognize me.