Growing older, but not up

Randy Riley Guest columnist

Randy Riley Guest columnist

Jimmy Buffett is well known for his music and light-hearted lyrics about tropical life and his unique, laidback Caribbean lifestyle. His songs are often referred to as party songs.

I like them because they are positive songs about life; about living life to the fullest.

I first became aware of Buffett and his music more than 40 years ago. Several people from the Wilmington area were headed to the Bahamas for a week of scuba diving. Like most visitors to the islands, they all seemed to love the Buffett sound. I quickly grew to love it.

The folks who traveled with us were going there for the sun, sea and scuba diving. They all thrived on Jimmy Buffett’s music and his message. A little tequila and rum seemed to help the message settle in.

One of the first Buffett songs to catch my attention was entitled, “Growing older but not up.” It was written back in the days when Pete Rose was still known as Charlie Hustle. No matter how old Pete Rose got, he never lost his zip, or his drive… his hustle.

Pete never walked from home plate to first base. Whether he got a home run, a base hit, bunted, walked or was hit by the pitch, Pete would run full-speed to first base.

I loved the Buffett lyrics that begin by reflecting on a baseball game. “I rounded first never thought of the worst, as I studied the shortstop’s position. Crack went my leg like the shell of an egg. Someone call a decent physician. I’m no Pete Rose, I can’t pretend. Though my mind is quite flexible, these brittle bones don’t bend.

[Chorus] I’m growing older but not up. My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck. Let those winds of time blow over my head. I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

The older I get the more strongly those lyrics resonate in my heart. I would love to be able to jog again. I miss the old days of taking stairs two or three steps at a time. There are times that I curse every stupid thing I ever did to earn such lousy, painful knees.

If you ever see me carrying lawn chairs at the city park and it looks like I’m talking to myself. That’s probably what I’m doing. Cursing the limbo contest that blew out my right knee, or cursing the decision to ski over the mogul that caused me to fall and blow out my left knee.

Those things seemed to be fun at the time, but I quickly realized that these brittle bones no longer bend.

Many years ago, back when I was training to become a firefighter, I had to practice the fireman’s carry. We had to pick up a classmate and simulate getting them out of danger. I would drape a classmate over my shoulders and I would carry them a distance to get them to safety.

Now, it sometimes takes all I have to carry groceries from the garage, up the steps into the house. Grunting and groaning is followed by a loud, “Whew” as I set the sacks on kitchen counter.

As I have often said, “Getting old is not for sissies.”

Instead of running all over Ohio to places where we can hike around, Debbie and I are now content to drive around until we find a nice place to eat.

For Mother’s Day I drove her to Waldo, Ohio for an excellent lunch at the G & R Tavern. That little tavern is the home of Waldo’s world famous fried bologna sandwich. It is delicious.

We just had to settle onto our bar stools and enjoy a thick slice of fried bologna with onion. We could easily do that without putting any strain on my old knees.

In my heart, I will always regret not being able to run and jump like I did 40 years ago. Buffett’s song will continue to tease me about the days of old.

Mentally, I would love to still be able to do those things — even the limbo contest and the skiing. That probably means that my mental metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck.

Years ago, during a concert in Cincinnati, Jimmy Buffett called his fans “Parrotheads.” The name stuck. Buffett fans around the globe refer themselves as Parrotheads.

I will always be a Parrothead, but I’m afraid I’m going to be more grounded than I would like to be.

And even though I’ll continue to grow older, I hope I never grow up. I want to do a lot more living before I’m dead.

Randy Riley is a former mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County commissioner.

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