Once upon a time, long ago and not all that far away, I could bowl with the best of them. My delivery was far from perfect, but my then-young body released the ball with some degree of precision.

A few days ago, and very close to home, I barely scattered 90 pins. Time marched on and over my arthritic arm and uncooperative knee, qualifying me for the bowling Hall of Shame. Each trip to the ball return was preceded by the sound of a bowl of Rice Krispies .... no, wait, that was just an old man attempting to arise from his seat.

No swift, sleek motion from the old codger. I simply walked to the spot where ball release was merited, bent as far as my legs would let me and hurled the ball somewhere between the two gutters. Two of our grandchildren (and bowlers a few lanes down) were gracious enough not to LOL, though my performance certainly merited worldwide video embarrassment.

Long ago and not very far away wasn't that long ago, was it? The pimple-faced, skinny kid who fancied himself a lot more agile than he really was, morphed into a creaky, cranky old dude who could only break 100 in his mind. Getting old didn't really take all that long. Developing limits on my physical agility was a little more gradual, sapping some of my strength a bit at a time until one day I attacked 10 bowling pins, most of which refused to fall.

I'm not really feeling sorry for myself, though I surely wish I could still strike my way to bowling success. I would like to walk a couple of miles every day, as my bride and I did until "Arthur" took up residence in my left knee. I would like to engage in lively conversation, delivering clever responses to friends and family. Hearing loss, which also came sneaking up on me with each passing year, finds me mysteriously responding to comments I thought I heard. While my responses sometimes do elicit laughter, often it's because people said one thing and I heard another. Loss of one hearing aid doesn't help.

Then there's the vision thing. Glaucoma surgery saved vision in my right eye, though folks to my right are bit more out of focus than those on the left. So here's a guy who has survived for more than 74 years and really should not be complaining. After all, a lot of people don't make it this far, and many have more ailments than I.

The late Dean Dowdy used to say he was grateful for all his aches and pains. "At least I know those parts are still working," he would say. Like me, I am sure he would have preferred those aching parts to function as well as they did when he was much younger. He cited the example of a fellow who only had two teeth. The man was grateful because one of them was on the top of the other, enabling him to chew. I guess it's all in how you look at things.

Long ago and not that far away, I joined my contemporaries in lamenting the fact that all "old people" did when they got together was talk about their aches and pains. Now I realize how central those conversations are to my life, even as I wish I could deliver a bowling ball like I did 50 years ago. I wish I could still shoot a jump shot without having my leg twist and signal my brain that pain is involved.

I still do the "Tom the Toolman" thing. Working on a remodel at my daughter's house has involved more bending, stooping, climbing and moaning than ever before. But, like most things this old guy does, I can still get it done. It takes a while, involves some pain and adjustment, but it gets done.

In the spirit of Mr. Dowdy, thank God for what I have left.

Peace.

Tom Clinton retired as executive editor of The Messenger in 2011. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Lone Oak.

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