Fifty years makes a lot of difference in a man’s life. Fifty years ago I was a 15-year-old high school student living in a large family in a small farm town in Iowa. In addition to the physical changes – like the chest dropping into the drawers and the hairline receding into nothingness – a man’s attitude changes over five decades.
For instance, there are a lot of things I did 50 years ago that I don’t do anymore.
You say you want an example? Well, I no longer drive like I will never die. I never had a hot car, but I did some stupid things behind the wheel.
Our little town had one hill. Seriously, amidst the rich, rolling land of north central Iowa we had one hill in the town of Kamrar. It even had a name – Wilson Hill. A narrow gravel road went over Wilson Hill and it was great fun to drive down this road as fast as we could so when we topped Wilson Hill the car would enjoy some air, as in tires leaving the road for a second or two.
This was more fun if the car was full of passengers. However, I don’t remember ever worrying if there was a car coming from the opposite direction; a car which you wouldn’t see until you crested Wilson Hill. Or maybe you wouldn’t see until you collided head-on with it.
I don’t try to get "air" at the crest of a hill anymore. Even Wilson Hill.
Another thing I don’t do anymore: eat as much as I physically can. When I was a teenager I felt it was my duty to eat as much as I could. Then I’d feel miserable for a while, only to pig out again at the next meal.
I recall going to a pizza buffet and eating more than a dozen slices of the good stuff. And then suffer.
I love pizza and many other dishes, but age has a way of teaching a man to say, "Enough." I have learned to say, "Enough."
Something I don’t do now that I did 50 years ago: make obscene gestures. I just about got my block knocked off by a motorist angered when a buddy and I flipped him off. This was the summer I was 18. Haven’t done it since. Not even when someone does it to me. Man, I learned that lesson well.
Something else I haven’t done since I was a teenager – try to run a kid out of his own town.
I was driving around my grandparents’ town with a couple of cousins in my father’s ’58 DeSoto. Whatever possessed me to get cocky while driving a DeSoto I’ll never know.
At one point my cousins pointed out another teenage driver who they said was a jerk. "Tell him to get out of town," they urged me. So I did. Pulled up alongside him and told him to get out of town. His town.
When the kid and his friends took off, I gave chase (in my dad’s DeSoto.) I tailed them around town for a while and when they pulled up in front of a house and ran inside I stopped and waited. These jerks were mine.
Until, that is, the jerk’s father came out of the house looking really ticked off. Being smarter than brave, I squealed away (in my dad’s DeSoto.)
Driving a DeSoto was bad enough; driving/running away from some guy’s daddy wasn’t a proud moment either.
Growing up we Huisman boys fought quite a bit. I was the oldest (and largest at the time) of four boys and shamefully admit I was punch happy. After I left home my brothers grew up and I lost my size advantage. Brother Dave is now 6’9"– two inches taller than I am. And tougher.
I don’t fight with my brothers anymore.
In addition to my three brothers, I have two sisters who were born at the end of the family line up. I am 11 and 14 years older than my sisters and enjoyed my role of big brother.
When they were little girls I delighted in taking them uptown to Grace’s Cafe and letting them each pick out a nickel or dime’s worth of candy from the penny candy counter. I held each girl in an arm while they painstakingly selected their candies. Not only do I not do that anymore, I can’t do that anymore.
Fifty years – it makes a lot of difference in a man’s life.