Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on October 18, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 2 comments

Old man. New tunes


“Don’t let the old man in, I wanna live some more,

Can’t leave it up to him, he’s knocking at my door,

I knew all of my life, that someday it would end,

Get up and go outside, don’t let the old man in.”

Don’t Let the Old Man in. Toby Keith

My second Camino is in the rear-view mirror. I completed my second trek across Spain at the end of June. The journey is over, but the memories linger. It seems every other day, I receive a message from one of my “Camino family” members – people with whom I shared blisters, stories from the trail and yes, some wonderful Spanish red wine. We came from many different countries as strangers and different walks of life. We departed as friends. On the Camino, you are simply a walker, putting one foot in front of the other trying to make it from St.Jean Pied de Port in southern France to Santiago de Compostela in western Spain – a distance of 800 kilometres.

Besides my close-knit Camino friends, I met many other interesting people along the way. I remember one guy in particular. He was an aging, white haired, ponytailed hippie. And he loved to talk. He had a voice (and a face!) made for radio. It was deep and mellifluous. Unlike a radio, which can be turned off, this chap was loquacious. There was no off button. I’m being very charitable. I bumped into this dude three or four times – three times too many in my estimation. On the fifth encounter, we happened to be eating in the same restaurant and he asked if he could join me. I was trapped.

I listened to him drone on. He was quite self-absorbed. Once again, my charity knew no bounds.  Only a glass of very nice cabernet held near to my lips kept me from screaming. Both of us were in our 70s. When I thought I couldn’t stand it a minute longer, he blurted out, “Len, don’t let the old man in.”

He went on to tell me about a Toby Keith song about aging. My ears perked up. The more I listened, the more the lyrics of the song resonated loud and clear. My patience was rewarded. “But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.” The Gambler – Kenny Rogers

Last week, a young German friend, Jannis, part of one of my two Camino families, sent me a message with a link to the Willie Nelson version of the Toby Keith song. I took that as my cue to learn the song.

A bit of history. You may not be a big Clint Eastwood fan (I am) but you have to admire his energy and longevity in the movie industry. He’s 93. A few years ago, Clint was playing golf with Toby Keith at Clint’s charity event. “Struck by Eastwood’s relentless energy at an age when many are content to sit and reflect, Keith asked how he (Eastwood) keeps going. “He said, ‘I just get up every morning and go out. And I don’t let the old man in,” Keith recounts. (Music News – Cathy Applefeld Olson).

We can’t slow down the ageing process. As The Outsiders crooned in 1966, “Time Won’t Let Me”. Many of us are trying our darndest to “not let the old man in”. Keeping active physically and mentally will not ward off the aging process but it certainly gives us a fighting chance of having a decent quality of life.

I don’t mean to be morbid or maudlin but from time to time, I go to the graveyard to pay my respects to those who loved us and blazed trails for us. In particular, I acknowledge my parents who passed along the gift of music to their children, their grandchildren and great grandchildren. On Thanksgiving weekend, I did three gigs. Nobody ate more turkey or had more fun than me. The best thing about the gigs was that I was forced to learn some new songs at the request of the folks who hired me. You can teach an old dog new tricks, especially if you bribe him with delicious slices of chocolate and pumpkin pie, each adorned with whipped cream!

There is a section of the graveyard that contains the mortal remains of priests, most of whom taught at our local university. I knew most of them. As a lad, I worked at the pro shop at our golf course and the priests showed up nearly every day at the exact same time. I believe that this was their real sanctuary. I got to know them well and even had a few of them as professors. And now, they are all gone.

As I finish writing this piece, I am getting ready to head out for my daily 90-minute walk. The grim reaper is lurking somewhere in the corner. I can’t outrun or outwalk or outlast him but I’m going to do my very best to “not let the old man in”.

“When he rides up on his horse,

You feel that cold bitter wind,

Look out your window and smile,

Don’t let the old man in.”

Have a great weekend.

P.S. I really like the Willie Nelson version of this song.

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