As we forged ahead into our later years we come to realize there are things we always thought we would do someday that we just aren’t going to achieve in this lifetime. Things such as hikes in the Himalayas or trips to Egypt down the Nile, or even helicopter skiing in Alaska. Father Time has a way of closing the door for certain adventures tucked away in the deep corners of our minds.
I have a prime example. Many years ago, at age 19, I was parked in front of a ferryboat going from the State of Washington to Alaska. My buddy said, “We are not going on that ferry, perhaps another time!” and we headed to Montana. I was one ferry ride away from Alaska, but now I just don’t see me ever getting there.
23 years ago, in the mid 1990’s, I was having a ski lunch with, Jean Claude Charlet, who was then both a friend and President of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix, when I told him, “When I retire, I am coming back to Chamonix to climb Mt. Blanc.” Jean Claude looked at me sternly and with his best English said, “If you are to successfully climb Mt Blanc you must do it now, in the next year, or you will never do it.” He continued to say, “Every summer I watch men in their sixties come to climb Mt. Blanc, but must turn back due to their age.” I did come back that next summer and did summit the tallest mountain in the Alps at 15,781 ft. However if I tried to do it this summer at 65-years-old, I know I would not be able to. Last March when Cindi, my wife, and I visited Chamonix and she saw the route I took, she couldn’t believe I ever did it.
However while dining this week at Union Cantina in Southampton with my wife, the waitress said something that caught my attention. She, at 25-years-old, said about life in general, “There is always room for greatness!” I believe she is right.
Every year out on the East End of Long Island, I seem to witness someone doing something great. One year in Montauk a fireman went into a burning house and carried a sleeping friend of mine out to safety. Another time I saw the whole community have a fundraiser for a cancer victim who now 9 years later is a successful cancer survivor. Greatness does happen all around, sometimes without warning. Heroes do exist. I am sure we all have an example that comes to mind immediately. I think all us “sixty-something” folks still have some greatness to be achieved.
I am hoping to have a moment like that writing someday, not to make money, not to achieve fame, but just to know I got something really right. Years ago when I was in New Hampshire to visit Saint Anselm’s College, thinking I might apply there, I was driving my younger brother Jim and friend Tom Romero in Tom’s dad’s Chrysler New Yorker (with that 472 hp engine back in 1971). Then we became lost perhaps one mile from the School. We stopped to ask a farmer how to get to the school. He pointed to a Saint Anselm’s building up on a hill in the near distance and said, “You can’t get there from here!” Of course I was confused about that. But then he explained we had to go back to where we turned off and go the opposite way to get to get just right up there where the building was. The lesson is sometimes you must go back to get to where you came from to get to where you need to go. We must not be afraid or be too proud to go backwards to go forwards.
I learned a long time ago to admit to my wife when I am lost on a drive and let her turn on the GPS and get us there. One thing about the East End of Long Island it’s hard to get lost on Route 27 or Route 25, but sometimes it is tough to get back to either of them at night when it’s raining. I hope all those reading this column will understand that no matter what age, “There always is room for greatness.” And it would be great to go for it. You can get there from here.