Last year, I made two New Year’s resolutions: 1. Hike to the top of Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s highest point, and 2. Get through Bohemian Rhapsody on the piano without saying “whoops,” “my bad” or “wait a sec.” I completed the first with my friend Jennifer on August 8th, while my wife Bryn spent the day with the kids, vowing to make the hike in 2022. It was exhilarating standing at the peak, 12,633 feet above sea level, despite Jennifer asking every hiker coming down that we passed, “Are we near the summit?” (akin to: “Mom, Dad, are we there yet?”). I hope to make the hike an annual event.
As for my second resolution, let’s just say I still have a ways to go.
Not far from our office, there is an equestrian park which is encircled by a nearly one-half mile trail. Occasionally I’ll head out in the afternoon to walk a few laps, ultimately making my way back to the office before it gets dark.
One day in the spring of 2021, while walking in the park, I met an elderly gentleman named Don. I came to learn some amazing things about Don. He is a World War II veteran, moved to Arizona with his wife in 1965, sold insurance and brokered real estate for most of his career, and lost his wife just one month shy of their 70th wedding anniversary several years ago. The most impressive thing I learned about Don is that he walks three laps every day at the park, which totals about one and one-half miles, other than when he has testing at the VA Medical Center. “That VA is making a darn fortune off of me!” Don would tell me.
Don turned 98 years old in early December. Yes, 98. As in two years shy of 100.
When I commented that he had a big birthday coming up, he told me “Oh yeah, it’s going to be a national holiday!” Our friends Debbie and Katy (teachers at the local elementary school) and I agreed to meet Don at the park on his birthday to celebrate his big day. Unfortunately, I was at a mediation in downtown Phoenix and arrived a bit late. When I did, I saw a large birthday card that Katy and Debbie constructed and set up on the park bench. There was Don, wearing a birthday hat in celebration of his 98th birthday, on the last of his three laps. I walked with Don that day, wondering if I would ever live to see my 98th birthday, only hoping to be in anywhere near as good a shape as Don is now. “I just want to live long enough to see an increase in my Social Security,” Don recently told me.
I always look forward to running into Don at the park. When I do, he never remembers my name, but always asks how my wife Bryn is doing.
Shortly before the New Year, I went to the park, a little nervous that I had not seen Don in a couple of weeks. There he was, dutifully making his way through the last of his three laps. When I asked him if he had any New Year’s resolutions, he responded, “No, I have everything I want.”
Don has inspired me to make another New Year’s resolution for 2022: Get to know people on a far more personal and intimate level than I have in the past. To truly understand the story behind each of them. And I hope by doing so I will get inspired in so many new and different ways, as Don has inspired me.
Happy New Year’s, Don.