Clark Hollow ramblings: No place for old men

I’ve been thinking about the aging process and how I ought to be doing a better job of adapting to it. On one hand, it seems like it would be easy to let a few things go, like cutting firewood, hauling it, splitting it, carrying it in the house with a lot of dirt and bugs, burning it and then taking out the ashes. And the one that’s been giving me pause more often, getting up on the roof to clean out the chimney.

On the other hand, I have always gravitated to doing things for myself, from working on my vehicles and machines, doing fix-it jobs around the house and trying to keep everything in good repair. But it might be time to step back and take a hard look at this behavior. One would think I would relish not doing the work anymore, and having someone else maintain my vehicles and fix the washing machine.

What happens when you do that, however, is you are left with time on your hands. I like to be busy. Oh, I have slowed down some, for sure, but I can’t spend all day watching the boob tube; it is mostly mindless chatter. I have started reading more, but I always read a lot. I wouldn’t mind spending more time with the guitar, but old man Arthur Ritis has reared his ugly head and I don’t know how much longer that is going to last. I will miss that, for sure.

I recall that noted songwriter and musician, Norman Blake, was asked once by a fellow musician and traveling troubadour why they were still doing that at their advanced age. Mr. Blake’s answer was short and sweet. “Because we can,” he replied.

A few weeks ago I was up in the mountains with a couple of friends where there had been some recent logging. We were dragging out the tops of trees left by the loggers and cutting firewood. It had been cold the night before and the ground was frozen on top, but the sun was warming things up and the footing, which wasn’t the best to begin with, was quickly becoming a slippery mess. The thought occurred to me that I have already had my three score and ten, and a few extra, and here I am standing in slippery slop with a roaring, razor sharp chainsaw in my hands and one misstep and that’s all she wrote. Even so, it still felt good to be out there doing something that, at the time, seemed productive.

And I think if I would admit it to myself, that’s where the problem lies, with the idea of productivity that exists somewhere inside my thick head. To explain, if I have a day where my activities consist of escorting my beautiful bride to Costco or Walmart because she doesn’t want to drive, due to the snow that is in the forecast for next week or next month, getting a bite to eat and stopping at the post office, I come home and immediately put on my grubby overalls and go outside to find something productive to do.

Sometimes I ask myself why I am doing this. I don’t know if the answer is because I am getting older and I wonder how many more productive days the Man Upstairs is going to give me, or if I am suffering from some other problem. I have taken on some more volunteer activities and that always feels right. But I have also buried too many friends and relatives recently, and that has a tendency to bring man’s mortality into sharper focus.

I need to think about this issue some more. I doubt there is one answer that will serve all of us well. We must each do what feels right for us and right for our families and loved ones.

I hope I find the answer before much longer, and I hope I am satisfied with it. I couldn’t wish anything better for you, either. And, until next time, I will leave you with this thought, from Psalm 90:10.

The length of our days is seventy years –

         or eighty, if we have the strength;

        yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,

         for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Richard Brady
About Richard Brady 138 Articles
Richard Brady was born and raised within sight of Rappahannock Peak, as was his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, etc. He graduated from George Mason University and was employed for 35 years with various agencies of the federal government. He retired in 2001, and he and his wife, Linda, live in Flint Hill, Va.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences of moving through the years. These are the stories that remind us (the younger generation) to value every moment given to us as this life is beautiful and ephemeral. I can honestly say that some of the most beautiful gifts I have received in my life have been the reminders from those who have gone before me of just how quickly we move through time. I remember, as a young mother, asking a Grandmother what wisdom she could share and I’ll never forget the gift she gave me as she quietly shared…“I have never reflected back and wished I had cleaned my house more often; the cobwebs can wait, spend time with those you love and always be patient and kind whenever possible.” I hear this voice every time I find myself sprinting about and making excuses not to be with friends or family.

    I have also been blessed with elders in my life that have taught me “how” to think, not “what” to think, and that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Thank you for these gifts and may you live your days in thoughtful repose and continue to share the beauty of your life experiences. And a special thanks to a father-in-law who continues to share so much knowledge with us every day ;-)

    “So Nature deals with us, and takes away
    Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
    Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
    Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,..” — Longfellow

  2. Mr. Brady, It seems, from your prior writing that we have similar interests. Gardening, orchard, hunting, logging, and fiddling around in my woodworking shop and gun shop. But when I don’t want to do any of those things and my thoughts turn to mortality, I go for a spirited ride on my Triumph Bonneville through the Rappahannock hills. I’m 76.

  3. Wonderful read – thanks for sharing, Richard. Consider some research on meditation. Just basic, nothing fancy or complicated. Meditation connects the mind with the body m, which sounds like it may benefit you. Meditation, often without much effort at all, leads people to what they need on both fronts.

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