Pondering as I have been recently while life winds down, I find myself worrying less about where I’m going as appreciating where I’ve been.
No, I haven’t been a world traveler. Or partaken of a lot of the fare of globetrotting gourmets. My bucket list could be a long one if I so chose. But I prefer instead to count my blessings.
I’ve resided in two different states — five if you count my Army years. I’ve been in or through 31 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven foreign entities.
I’ve been on a cruise, flown in planes large and small, ridden on trains, subways, streetcars and buses. I’ve crossed the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri rivers and boated on the Ohio. I’ve toured virtually every corner of both Minnesota, my native state, and Indiana, where I’ve resided the last 70 years. I waded across the Mississippi’s headwaters at Minnesota’s Lake Itasca.
I’ve been to Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills and Badlands, the nation’s two largest caves — Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and what is now called Jewel Cave in South Dakota (we knew it as Crystal Cave then). I’ve seen all five great lakes, visited Niagara Falls and swum in the Atlantic Ocean.
I’m a college graduate. I’ve contributed to the writing of books and had several magazine articles published. As a sportswriter, I covered the Indianapolis 500, the World Series, college and professional football and basketball as well as high school championships.
I’ve seen two sitting U.S. presidents and two future presidents, mostly from afar. I’ve met two men who became vice president. Twice I toured the nation’s capital, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue as a member of the Anderson High School Band.
I’ve conducted interviews with people that many would consider celebrities — Carl Erskine, Bill Gaither, Sandi Patty, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson, Lee Corso, Lou Brock, Bobby Knight, Bobby Leonard, Alex Agase, Gene Keady and Jim Irsay.
I’ve seen such landmarks as Churchill Downs, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Willis Tower in Chicago, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. I’ve visited famous zoos in Chicago, Cincinnati, New York and Detroit. I’ve been to state fairs in two states, crossed the Appalachian and Great Smoky mountains and attended the world’s largest gospel sing in Atlanta.
I’ve spent 55 years married to the same woman. I have no sons, but I’m blessed with four daughters, six grandchildren and a huge extended family.
OK, so I’ve never seen the Taj Mahal, the pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, London Bridge or Mount Everest. But I have experienced enough to develop a sense of awe over the power that created it all.
An angel with the unlikely name of Clarence Oddbody summed it up for my fictional cinematic cousin, George Bailey: “You know, George, you really had a wonderful life.”
And so have I.