Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

I hope I'm just as vital

by John Halverson

February 07, 2013

Bruce Johnson.

Ed Yaeger.

Doug Elliott.

They’re all past 80. All are well-spoken and wise in different ways.

I’d known Bruce, a former teacher at Badger High School, when I worked at The Week, where Bruce’s articles were a mainstay. Now he writes a column for the Regional News.

Ed first came to my attention when he wanted to talk about his endless pursuit of getting people to understand the Tax Incremental Finance District (TIF) — a thankless task if there ever was one.

Doug had been the long-time editor of the Regional News. Unfortunately, he hasn’t visited in a while because he’s had some health issues and has moved out of town. I miss him.

Bruce and Ed and Doug are just three of the many “old timers” who have come into my office for a chat.

There have been so many that someone suggested I should put up a checkerboard so we could all sit around, smoke our pipes, and talk about the weather.

I always try to make time for them, even on the busiest of days. They slow things down because they’re not in a hurry. They put things in perspective. I realize I’ll be their age some day and today’s worries will seem miniscule in retrospect.

It wasn’t so long ago that I thought of myself as an up-and-comer. Now in my mid-60s, I can’t help but think of my own mortality. I’m not yet a down-and-outer, but I realize that there are more years behind me than in front.

I find myself using terms and phrases that date me. “That’s a grandpa phrase,” my girlfriend will say. And, indeed, I am a grandfather — twice over.

A few months ago I was going to make reference to Gary Cooper in a story. I had to take it out because four of the five people in our editorial department had no idea who he was. “He was in ‘High Noon’,” I said. They’d never heard of “High Noon” either.

The other day Bruce Johnson made reference to a Xerox machine as though they still made them. “You’re dating yourself,” I said. Then I realized having once used one myself, I was dating myself, too.

When I’m talking to Bruce or Ed or Doug, I visualize myself on the other side of my desk — the other side of the proverbial checkerboard. I can see myself with the eccentricities that come with finally being comfortable with yourself.

I can see myself in the not-so-distant future coming into some editor’s office to chat about the things old-timers think of — where so and so lived, what a building was before it became what it is, and how the past was a better time.

Most of the old-timers who visit me remark on the 1941 Zenith radio I have in my office.

And maybe that’s a suitable metaphor.

It’s a standup version with ancient dials and buttons.

The channels are listed in a big display that looks like a speedometer on a 1940s car.

It only lists AM stations.

It works, but you can only hear it if you get up real close and it’s facing in a certain direction.

That’ll be me someday.

Part of the reason I like visiting with Bruce and Ed and Doug is to see how sharp they are.

Like that old radio, their veneers may be chipped in places, but there’s still music to be heard if you make the effort to hear it.

I look at them and think: “I hope I’m as vital as they are at that stage of my life.”

And I hope there will be someone around to listen to me.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News