What Makes an Adventure

Each year for the past forty years, I have attended the Indy 500.  Over the past twenty years my daughters have come with me.  Now in consideration for my friends’ questioning of my sanity, what sane person watches cars circling a track for three hours, it’s not just about the cars, even though 230 miles per hour is something you can only experience sitting 100 feet away, it’s so much more.   It’s the adventure.

For us the weekend starts on Friday with our trek down to Lafayette, Indiana.  It morphs into a golf tournament Saturday morning and then follows up with the annual reunion of the group of attendees, now numbering 30 plus, some who have traveled from as far away as Florida to the south and just below Canada to the north.  Sunday morning, race day, finds us assembling our caravan in preparation for our drive to the track in Indianapolis.  There we will tailgate with 350,000 other spectators for the greatest spectacle in sports.  You see it’s not just the race, it’s everything that goes with it. If you are a people watcher, the sheer size of the crowd will hold you in amazement.  If it’s the rush of speed, well there’s plenty of that and it’s not just the race cars driving fast but all the would be racers driving the highways into Indianapolis that Sunday morning.   It’s the hoopla, the track, the parade.  It’s the celebrities and the cameras.  It’s the spectacle.

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For me there is one more element that draws me back each year.  This is my chance, at least once a year, to spend time with my two, now adult, daughters.  When I was approached by my then 14-year-old daughter, asking to go with me for my annual “boys” weekend, I was taken aback.  I explained the logistics of spending a long weekend with twenty some guys bent on talking about race cars and well…… being guys.  I was only mildly surprised, after all she was already pretty headstrong, when she told me she was fully prepared to hold her own.  When she explained in detail the workings of the cars and her knowledge of the drivers, I realized that this was to be our next logical adventure.  Five years later, my younger daughter literally tricked her way into attendance and there were now two women fully integrated into the Wisconsin Indy crowd.  Some twenty years later, they still hold sway each year and command respect from the guys and actually represent the “elder” version of the second generation.  They make me proud each and every year as I listen to the reminiscing and the conversations they so comfortably center themselves into.

Indy second generation

I have never regretted for a moment having two daughters as my only children.  I was careful to give them every chance to be the beautiful women they are while letting them experience all the adventures a father would share with his son.  The Indy 500 is just one of those adventures.  Each year we plan and prepare for our trip, excitement growing through the entire month of May.  It is seventy-two hours of conversations about life and goals and achievements, uninterrupted by other family members, apologies to my wife.  It is a chance to bond and to share an experience with two people I love and respect.

Indy daughters

It’s not just the race, it’s everything that surrounds it, but more than anything else, it is the adventure shared.  Just a heads up, if you choose to argue the merits of this race with my daughters, you best do your homework.

Retirement…a Bottle of Wine and Sunset on my Deck

Hopefully the title got your attention.  I apologize to my readers, now numbering in the tens, for my lull in writing.  I should also tell you that after a bottle of wine, kindly provided by our neighbors, that this, at least in my own mind, will be a great read.  I am happily, almost comfortably into my ninth month of retirement.  Ironically, a couple can produce a child in that time frame but I guess finding one’s self in retirement is sort of the equivalent.

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Not sure why this picture seems approprite, but something about the child, the mask and the arms raised in victory strikes a cord with me.

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In my vacation phase somewhere up north.

I have found my purpose and that seemed to be everyone’s fear for me when I announced my retirement.  “What are you going to do with yourself?”  That seemed to be everyone’s concern.  If you remember, I started making lists.  I am happy, no elated to tell you that I checked and I haven’t accomplished any of those things yet.  The list was stupid.  It was too long and it included things I assumed would put everyone’s worries at ease.  Turns out it only made me tired thinking of all I would have to accomplish.

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So let me tell you how it is actually working out.  The book I am writing, it will be a great success if two things can happen.  One, I can take one hundred years to write it and two, I will live that long and some how have any of the faculties left to write coherently.  I had one bottle of wine and you are currently witnessing the results.   The alternative to that plan is that there is a publisher out there looking to publish the world’s shortest, we are talking ten pages, “how to succeed at life” novel.  Can you call ten pages a novel?  Then there’s the travel.  We have managed a four day get away to a Florida convention resort where we begged to be upgraded to a real room, you know, one with a view of actual water and I don’t mean the retention pond beyond the parking lot.  We squeezed in a week skiing in Colorado, everyone says go South, somewhere warm, by the ocean, we go to snow covered mountains.  And then there was the golf.  I was going to golf every week if not every day….. right, not so much.  But it turns out that was a good thing as retirement doesn’t actually improve your golf game.  Turns out it requires practice, patience and perseverance, of which I have, oh yeah, none of those qualities or at least not the time for them.

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But not all is lost.  I have found the secret to retirement.  It turns out it is doing nothing and feeling busy.  It is enjoying a sunrise with coffee on your deck. It is reading the paper for enjoyment instead of worry, you just skip all the news stories and focus on the comics.  It is changing your mind and doing the last thing on your list instead of the first.  It is skipping everything and sitting on the deck, watching the sunset and finishing off a bottle of wine with no regrets for tomorrow morning.  It is letting the day find you instead of trying to find yourself.

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There is one other accomplishment for which I am both proud and grateful.  I found an organization, SCORE, that has completely fulfilled me.  I discovered that the passion in my career came from helping and mentoring others, sometimes helping them do and become things even I couldn’t do for myself.  In this volunteer position, I get to mentor new businesses.  I marvel at their dreams and aspirations and then I get to answer their questions and tell them what I learned from both my mistakes and my successes.  I return from these sessions recharged and envigorated.  It is the exercise of your passion that rewards you for the years you spent working at figuring out what it was.

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So take heart all you worriers.  I am alive and doing well in retirement.  My list has been put in the back of my desk drawer where it belongs and I am allowing each new day to write its own “to do” list for me.  Now if you don’t mind, I will sign off.  I’ve got a million things to not do yet today.  Manana.

What’s the Greatest Thing about being a Grandpa?

We are given children and we become parents.  We nurture them.  We support their every need.  We watch them grow, gritting our teeth through the tough times, loving them even when they tell you they want new parents.  We hold our breath as they take their first steps and then again when they take their big steps….. first day of school, first date, first job.  And then, just about the time you are ready to be put out to the parenthood pasture, they make you a grandpa.

You get to start all over, maybe even fix a few of your mistakes.  You once again get to feel a tiny hand in yours just like you felt so long ago.  You get to see the wonder and awe of every new thing through their innocent eyes.  You get to watch the progress of life all over again, and somehow, as different as it is, it is somehow so strangely the same.

This time around, you get to be the spoiler when you want to.  You get to call everything an adventure and declare every day a McDonald’s day.  After all, why shouldn’t each day have  a happy meal.  You get to be the historian, reliving the past with stories and recreating it with activities.  You might even get to rebuild the clubhouse their mom played in as a little girl.  Oh it’s a bit bigger this time around and even a tad fancier, but that’s just what grandpas do.  And when they climb up into their clubhouse, the smile on their face makes all the aches and pains of a now much older carpenter, go magically away.

Original Clubhouse

1989 Original Clubhouse

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2018 New Clubhouse

But what’s the greatest thing about being a grandpa.  Simply put…..everything.  They say life begins again after forty or whatever age you pick, but I say life begins again with the birth of each new grandchild.   It’s life’s sequel playing out before your very eyes and once again you are given a supporting role.

Glad to be Opa and pleased with the gift of a second go round.