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6 posts from August 2016

Does turning 70-years-old have to mean getting on the fast lane to becoming elderly?


My family celebrates my 70th birthday
My family helps me celebrate.



When asked about my age, I like to say I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers and slide over the fact that I turn 70 years old in a few days.  In my mind, it's a number that has some sharp edges that can poke your thinking about the future.

I think my family surmised this and arranged a surprise birthday party this weekend.  They came from two different states with their families, including three babies and one toddler still in diapers.  As I walked into a local craft brewery with my wife, they were sitting just inside the door.  My two-year-old grandson came rushing to me and in a daze I looked over and saw everybody.

Here's my situation:  For the past several months I've been getting an increasing volume of mail from funeral directors, hearing aid dealers, cemeteries and Medicaid vendors.  These have a certain subliminal message that you're getting old and that your clock is running out of ticks.

Having my whole family here really layered these feelings with a strong topping of love.  They care for me and care enough to travel a good distance to celebrate and help me live forward, rather than looking over my shoulder.

They are each special:

  • My wife Gladys--she has not laughed at me when I see all the numbers on the obituaries that match my age and then wince.  
  • My daughter Krista--She and her family are in the process of resettling in this country after living and working in Europe for five years.  She's an organizer and knows how to help make her dad feel special.
  • My son Justin--We have a special father-son relationship that goes back to when he joined this world.  He has been consistent in his love and his tolerance for my shakiness in retiring and getting older.
  • My son-in-law Adam--he's a victim of my watching the Father Of The Bride too many times.  He has been an awesome friend to me and tries to understand and support me as I move into this new season of life.
  • My daughter-in-law Lauren--she's an amazing woman who has made our lives more full and loving.

Then there's our grandkids.  They have helped us experience and give love in a new way.  We can see the future through their eyes and their growth.

I'm looking forward to living forward with this great family that God has given me and my wife.

Thank-you to them for making this rite of passage special.

Last night I discovered that I may have a half-brother I didn't know about


Me wearing my favorite hat


On paper, it seems like I have a half-brother I didn't know about.  My wife and I were sitting on the couch looking through when she found that my "invisible dad" had a spouse that I never knew about.  I grew up feeling like my identity had two parts, my mom's side with all its transparency and my dad's which was like a black hole where nothing was visible.  

Over the past decades, I've gotten bits and pieces of information and learned more about my dad's side.  Most recently, I've learned that my dad--Claude H. Thorp--had been married more than once after he left my mom and me.

There are all kinds of layers of curiosity and consequences that come from being abandoned by a parent, particularly a father.  Learning about my dad and his side of the family has made me feel more attached as  a person.  Hard to understand and hard to explain.

What about this as a legacy item for my grandkids?  I'm thinking about that.  Will one or more of them want to know about their ancestry and who their ancestors were?  Good chance, I'd say.  The lesson from my dad's side are many, but for my grandkids.  Be discerning about your relationships.  I'm still trying to articulate this in my head.

What should you be thinking about as you get ready to turn 70-years-old?

Me and my granddaughter.
My granddaughter and I check out the day's news.

I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers born in 1946 right after the end of World War II which means that I turn 70-years-old in less than a week.  It's just a number, right?

I've never been an obituary reader, but over the past year, I've paid more attention to the ages of those who are being written about.  And I've noticed that a whole lot more of them are around my age.  In my mind, this means that I need to carefully pick where I want to concentrate my attention.

Life circumstances can turn on a dime at any age, but it seems to happen more quickly when you're older.  Am I ready?  In my spare moments while going up and down steps, walking in the neighborhood, cleaning out the garage, I try to both strengthen both my physical and my spiritual heart.  They both need to be strong as I enter this next phase of my life.

In reading a biography about a young woman who suffered through a virulent case of cancer where she transparently writes about the experience, I came across this quote:

In the absence of comforts and friends, is Jesus enough?

Her name is Kara Tippetts and her book is "The Hardest Peace"--expecting grace in the midst of life's hard. Her writing as lit a spark in my thinking about how to deal with what lies ahead.  

Is this my dad--Claude H. Thorp--in the picture on the left taken in Minneapolis during the early 1950s

A picture of my dad-Claude H. Thorp--on the right.
Is the guy on the left, the same guy in the picture on the right?


With my iPad on my lap while sitting on the couch a couple of days ago, my reverie was broken my a text message from a woman in Minneapolis who had read posts on this blog about my search for my father--Claude H. Thorp.  She was looking for information about her grandfather who had the same name as my father.  She even had a picture of him taken in the early 1950s.  She was curious if this might be my dad.

Back in my 20s, I had tracked my dad to Minneapolis where he had a construction business.  However, when I checked he had retired and moved to Florida.  Through friends, I was able to get his address.  He had settled there with a new family, one he had without ever divorcing my mom.  In 1948, he vanished in thin air without leaving a note, without calling or any kind of contact.  

I did knock on his door down south.  He refused to talk to me and threatened to hurt me if I didn't leave.  

In the intervening years, I knew my father had remarried, at least once.  I knew that he was estranged from kids he had before he married my mom.  As I age, I've always felt this piece of me that had been missing.  It was an identity thing.

Check the man in the picture on the left.  And then look at the photo on the right which is a picture of my dad during the time he was married to my mom.  Are they the same guys?  Any opinions?  I've tried facial recognition through Google's photo program and got nothing.



You decide: Is Donald J. Trump a "demagogue" as defined by Merriam Webster's dictionary?


Name-calling has become a hallmark of the presidential campaign this year.  For instance, in the New York Times this morning, Meg Whitman a national Republican leader and fundraiser called Donald J. Trump a demagogue.  

It's not a word I use very often and, other than knowing it's not flattering, I wondered what it meant.  Here's how Merriam Webster's online dictionary defines it:

a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power

Does Trump fit that description?  It would be hard to deny that he doesn't.  Trump appears to be a demagogue.

But what about other politicians at all levels who appear to do the same thing?  Are there members of the state legislature, city council, are there mayors who bash an opponent to make points and gain power?  Are they demagogues too?

So, I think Whitman is right about Trump.  He's a demagogue.


What kind of birthday cake do I want for my 70th birthday?


My wife and my daughter both asked me what kind of birthday cake I wanted this year.  Considering that on the last day of this month I'll be celebrating my 70th birthday, this is an important choice.  I love good old-fashioned carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but I was introduced this year by my two-year-old grandson to Elmo cupcakes.

That opens a whole world of possibilities, including Cookie Monster cupcakes and even more traditional choices.

In the meantime, I'm grappling with what this birthday means.  Ten more years, I'll be 80.  The term bucket list has taken on new meaning.  I'm no longer able to describe myself as a young senior citizen.  The idea of moving into a house with one floor has taken on a new attraction.

I'm processing these age-related questions.  How productive can I be during the next 10 years? Look at Moses from the Bible.  Wasn't he in his eighties when he went to Pharoh and told him that the Israelizes no longer wanted to make Egypt their home.  Then he led his people across the Red Sea while God parted it.

Between now and my birthday on the last day of this month, I will be contemplating these questions.  All the while, I'll be hearing a song in my head by Matt Redmond that has become an anthem for many, 10,000 Reasons.  

Looking back over the past almost 70 years, I have way more than 10,000 reasons to thank God.  I don't think I can count that high.

God, help me as I enter the next chapter of this adventure.