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The Musings of an Old Man






This isn’t the right lane … or is it?

I apparently don’t remember from our most recent visit!

That far area with the mausoleum must be new

And I don’t recall any cornfield view.

Otherwise, it all looks the same – almost more than one can bear.

Then suddenly things look familiar; it’s that one over there.

I guess it’s reasonable that the cemetery has grown.

That would explain the difficulty in locating a specific stone.

It’s been several years since we last were here.

An insatiable tug on our heartstrings now pulls us near.

The monument at the head of the plot simply spells the family name.

It’s quite adequate; there’s no one here of particular fame.

With well-groomed arborvitae, the gravestone has been nicely flanked.

Memorial markers identify the separate mounds that to me are sacrosanct.

Names and years engraved on the markers tell the tale

Of when were they born and when did they fail.

Mom outlived Dad by eight years – both gone by ’73.

They lost two sons – one in childhood and one in the infantry.

The rest of their kin have of necessity long since gone their own ways.

My tears too have dried over these many, so many days.

I shall return periodically, however, as long as I can

To express the thanks of an ongoing clan.





Over fifty years ago, I asked her to marry me and she said yes.

Fortunately, our wants and aspirations were mutual more or less.

The city was growing – new subdivisions, new schools.

We saw hoped-for kids in a modest house – no spas, no swimming pools.

Combining our savings, we visited model homes thus daring the fates

And found the perfect floor plan out where street names honored states.

A small 3-bedroom frame stucco with sloped ceilings had caught our eye.

The subsequent financial analysis encouraged us to buy.

The contract was celebrated with a party on the lot that night.

We turned a shovelful of dirt and drank champagne by sparkler light.

Over twenty years later the empty nest syndrome struck,

But we had nurtured a boy and a girl to adulthood with enviable luck.

In those earlier years, when a need for parental escapes seemed unremitting,

A family with five daughters across the street provided most timely babysitting.

A climbing tree in back helped our kids overcome physical fear;

Cultural exposure to Greek, Hispanic, and Italian neighbors was extremely dear.

In our day, parenting was pretty much “because I said so” I guess.

It still seems a bit bizarre that better juvenile deportment might result from finesse.

That house, however, still evokes in our minds many smile-inducing sights

As we shepherded our progeny through appropriate passage rites.

Although that period of our lives could not forever last,

The memories it created have indeed been unsurpassed.





I’ve been to Albuquerque; I’ve seen their big parades

Be they State Fair, Christmas, or “Let’s Stamp Out AIDS”.

Another band goes by and then the music fades,

Sirens howl among the motorcades.


Sheriff’s posses on horseback come from counties far and wide,

And school ROTC units drill pretty good I must confide.

Some folks just leg it while others have the darnedest things to ride.

What’s the big sign? Oh! It touts gay pride.


A convertible provides a high seat for a good-looking girl

And a youngish majorette performs an intricate twirl.

A folklorico dancer makes her fiesta dress swirl

And, down from Cerrillos,…look, there’s Burl.

I guess in a frantic last-ditch effort to make amends

Statehouse politicos wave like they’ve found their long-lost friends.

Why the gap between entries? Well it just all depends

On a little tyke who ran into the street and what he intends.


Float after float, having been worked on much of the night,

Now provide candy for the crowd to the children’s delight.

I must admit that the Zuni band is my favorite sight.

As long as they’re there, I know the world is all right.




The enumeration of descriptors has familiarly been

Friend, companion, lover, mother of my children -

A bevy of nouns for which I see no need

Used so oft as to be disappointingly hackneyed.

Those who hear me will be quick to understand

That the depth of my emotion is far more grand.

I gave you my being.

We started simply with financial assets so small

That any kind of nuptial agreement would have been pure falderol.

Our union was based on naught, but trust;

The possibility of failure not discussed.

I gave you my solemn word.

What was mine was yours; you need not ask.

Fulfillment of wedding vows was our honorable task.

We started down the road and lived within our means

And nourished our babies into their teens.

I gave you my counsel.

We taught them right from wrong

And how in a troubled world they could get along…..

That their lives would be what they chose …..

That indeed one reaps what one sows.

I gave you my strength.

As we negotiated the empty nest and identified new pursuits,

Traveling far and wide and chasing our roots,

We marveled at all that we had seen

And our love remained unerringly keen.

I gave you my devotion.

Now we’re retired and we can speak first hand of sickness and of health.

The years have taught us what truly constitutes this thing called wealth.

It’s been my observation, as I experienced “to have and to hold”,

That everything I’ve given has been returned a hundred-fold.

As the sun slowly sets on these, our golden years,

We wonder which of us shall shed the final tears.

It’s an ages-old question we have yet to face;

When and where will we share our last embrace?




It’s been quite a while since I was gainfully employed.

I credit my caring wife for these extra years I’ve enjoyed.

Nonetheless, time is indeed wreaking its unmitigable toll,

Albeit a slow, seemingly controlled degradation on the whole.

I cherish taking my spouse out for our mid-day meal.

We enjoy ethnic menus with undiminished zeal.

Squiring her out at noon sports a further plus.

Driving at night has become such a fuss.

The daily crossword puzzle is now an activity for two.

Both of us struggle for words we once knew.

She is still my guiding light; I envy her joie de vivre.

Of course, it is she whom I would be most loath to leave.

She is my soul mate, a partner without peer.

I pray not for me, but my partner most dear.





“Brothers and sisters have I none,

But that man’s father is my father’s son”…

It’s a genealogical puzzle handed down the family tree

From too little known ancestors – you, their legatee.

Old albums with pictures fading and falling free

Were faithfully kept so that you could see

Of what strong and moral stock you be.

Bearded men, cradled babies, oval, formal, all of them brown,

Give way to tints and highlights and a short wedding gown.

Then the candids, surprise and merriment abound,

Bewhiskered youths – alas, we’ve come full ’round.

All of them different, yet somehow the same,

How often a feature and how frequent a name …

The set of a chin, a build like a bear,

And, oh my, that perfectly gorgeous hair!

The physical things, yes, but really much more –

Those personality traits, they’re the core.

Stubbornness, independence, integrity –

Now there, there’s down home heredity.

’Tis a gift to be sure, both the outer and the inner,

And, whether you end your day with supper or dinner,

Strive to be better. Take the dare!

We’ll always be proud of you and that hair!

You are you and we are we,

Yours alone your destiny,

But don’t count us out for we will be

Born again in your progeny.

Now I grow old, the ancient law be done –

Passage rites fulfilled, surely Paradise is won.

Carry on for all of us. Give life a royal run.

And your pride, I pray,

Matches mine when you say,

“I am my father’s son!”




I pass the day with naught but thought,

Though I do like to see what the mailman brought.

My caring wife questions my sighs.

My reply: “I’m just resting my eyes!”

I smile at remembrances both good and bad

And relive in my mind the experiences I’ve had.

I acknowledge those things that made me proud,

But leave the rest for passing time to enshroud.

I enjoy rehashing my travels to places far and wide

To recall the marvels those destinations provide.

I truly savor the good times with family and friends

And pray my faults are seen through a forgiving lens.

I review the current roster and shed a tear.

Do I cry for me or someone dear?


The more distant past evokes a sharper image -

Back to when grandparents topped the lineage.

The farther back I go the more I thirst

To re-enact, it seems, each and every “first.”

First house, first school, and even first date…

I never worried what would be my fate.

The dreams of others I tried not to trample;

Did I succeed in setting a good example?

Now the die has long been cast -

The only unknown, how long will I last?

Yes, it is I, who currently bears the title of patriarch,

And I would be remiss

were I not to reminisce

on those who made me toe the mark.

Beloved parents, long gone, guided me well from year to year.

Do I cry for me or someone dear?


Satisfaction comes in knowing my genes will persist

As my life’s frailties grow too numerous to resist.

My progeny seem well on their way,

Confidence high as they take on each day.

Decisions to be made are theirs alone

As they tackle dilemmas not here-to-fore known.

As they experience the ups and downs,

They know that laughs can dispel the frowns.

And, as they make their life-changing choices,

I pray they listen to well-meaning voices.

I’ve done about all that I can do;

I’m awaiting developments in a different queue.

Offspring are moving on now; they’re not so near.

Do I cry for me or someone dear?


The hardest part of growing old

Is watching close friends depart the fold.

Be they life long or from an interim period

Stemming from my own interests so myriad,

Be they school mates, fellow employees,

Next door neighbors, or struggling wannabes,

There was this comfortable feeling while in their presence.

A feeling of having “grown up together” was of the essence.

Some of their deaths are sudden – quite distressing;

Others so drawn out, I call them a blessing.

Any news of demise, I find personally injurious.

How could I possibly be in the slightest bit impervious?

These were my confidants, friends most sincere.

Do I cry for me or someone dear?


Shunning any semblance of levity,

I contemplate for a moment my own longevity.

Of all those fellow souls who together began life’s missions,

Why are there so few of us alive to patronize geriatricians?

How have I survived? Was I particularly conservative … super skittish?

Perhaps I was consummately adroit or I simply chose a powerful fetish!

By whatever measure that might apply,

I don’t see myself scoring unusually high.

According to scripture as well as song, for everything there is a season,

But the fates have been extra kind to me surely for a reason.

I ponder the possibility of a life hereafter

And hear in the back of my mind a disingenuous laughter.

Will practitioners of the correct faith gather ’round my bier?

Do I cry for me or someone dear?


Comfortable in my favorite sunroom easy chair,

I gaze at the mountain from my retirement lair.

As I watch shadows of clouds sweep across its face,

The eternal mountain easily mesmerizes me in place.

A warm zephyr flows and ebbs through my open window.

My breathing slows

and my eyes close

in concert with the decrescendo.

The sinews of my body are thoroughly relaxed in anticipation of their nap.

I envision loved ones in my drowse; is my Maker offering a lagniappe?

In the void that follows, time stands still or so it seems.

It’s been innumerable years since I remembered any dreams.

The passage of the day in due course chills the breeze.

I awake with a start; was my absence a tease?

Nothing has changed; I am still here.

Do I cry for me or someone dear?


As it has for all my antecedents, my day will come I suspect.

There is no fountain of youth; the search engenders only disrespect.

One early on becomes aware that life indeed has factors encumbering;

Recall the grade school clock song that posited “his life seconds numbering”.

But at what age does the reality of mortality come to stay?

Upon a serious illness, a near-tragic injury, the death of a companion … who is to say?

Everyone knows that the will to survive is second to none

And that the human body is well engineered to fight or to run.

That maxim fails, however, with the physical ravages of time

When we no longer produce the magical hormone or enzyme.

Somewhere in there in our contesting Methuselah,

The psyche submits and decides to end the hoopla.

On that day’s roll call when I fail to appear,

Do I cry for me or someone dear?





My first read of an obituary was truly an unemotional call.

It took place in high school while studying poetry, literature, et al.

It was William Allen White’s piece on his daughter’s death printed in his Emporia Gazette,

Incredibly well done, it left an indelible impression on my juvenile mind and yet…

In adulthood, I never glanced at that section in the daily news.

There were far too many “my life” articles from which to choose.


Seventy years later, however, acquaintances of mine are now routinely leaving the fold.

Official notices are, of course, mandatory; my peers and I have indeed grown old.

I now validate each sad rumor in the press and note specifics for any soon-to-be memorial service.

I try to show outward calm, but I’m becoming more (for want of a better word) “nervous.”

Some obits are lengthy while others short and sweet.

I close my eyes and envision my own – how should mine the grim reaper greet?


Some obituaries delineate the multitudinous branches of the family tree

Or provide detailed proof that the decedent traveled extensively.

Organizational relationships current and past are favored by some.

Still others opt to extol other virtues for a hoped-for religious outcome.

Were it up to me and were it mine to command,

I would simply relate my love for my native land.


Precede that with the legal announcement of my death as required in an obit

And identify my estate’s executor for those with a possible claim against it.

Those who would appreciate closure are welcome to come to my home to chat,

To break a little bread, have a drink, to meditate awhile… and such as that.

I request no public ceremony, no “celebration of life,” no review of what I did.

The only posthumous accolade I crave … “His was a life well lived.”











The Musings of an Old Man

  • Author: William Gardner
  • Published: 2015-09-27 04:05:11
  • Words: 2598
The Musings of an Old Man The Musings of an Old Man