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I Woke Up This Morning And…

November 30, 2018

I woke up this morning and in the first foggy moments it seemed like any other day. The sun was up, the birds were chirping outside my window and my wife was beside me in bed. And then it hit me like a flaming comet from nowhere: I was 70 years old!

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Honestly, throughout my years I never thought I would actually reach this milestone. I lay in bed and thought about the long road that brought me to this morning. I was born seven decades ago in an age that is foreign by today’s standards. It was a sepia toned time, full of family and community and thankfully lacking in today’s stress and anger. Growing up in the 1950s was fun, full of adventure and enthusiasm and comparatively harmless. I really can’t recall anything truly bad happening in my youth. That era set the stage for my opus that now played before me as I took full measure of my life.

Memories sift in like flower in the breeze. I remember teaching my sister her multiplication tables as I walked her to grammar school in 1959. The days now blur a bit but the sounds and smells of our little town of San Fernando come back at will. I recall hearing small planes at a nearby municipal airport on Sunday mornings as I listened to Wolfman Jack on my 8-transistor radio. The smell of orange blossoms was everywhere. My whole small world hummed like an electric train firmly on its tracks.

Fishing was the name of the game back then as it still is today. What began as an awkward accompaniment to my fishing father at age three became a lifelong passion. I remember fondly each and every fish that I lifted from the water and then released with the hope that we would meet again.

Junior high school toughened me up. There were the inevitable fights between boys trying desperately to become men. I lost a few and I won a few. Life was generally a draw back then. Ironically my right leg was shattered into hundreds of pieces during a friendly wrestling competition. The next two years were spent in casts and on crutches and canes. I was even shipped off to a handicapped school where I learned real humility and a great respect for the truly handicapped.

High school found me as a bronzed surfer, one of the very best of the day. Surfing healed my leg and the sport gave me a much-needed confidence and a healthy life style. It was fun being on top of my game and having the adoration of the many young girls around me. It was nice having a big head; I felt I deserved it.

Having been an overachiever all through my life, I burst through college in three years and completed two post-graduate degrees in the next year and a half. In the whole mix I found the time to write a successful play, Storybook Children. Some from the old off-Broadway days still remember it. However teaching was my goal and teach I did, first in high school and later in the university setting. It was rewarding. I am still in touch with many of my high school students from the 1970s. They remind me that age is transient.

The early 1970s found me married, divorced and a single father. I look back and describe those years as my toughest job. There’s a hell of a lot involved in raising a very young child by yourself. Strangely, credit is rarely given for such efforts and gratitude is often lacking on anyone’s part. The single parent must chalk it up to that fuzzy category we call life and move on. I did.

I also merged into life’s fast lane as a songwriter and producer in the mid to late 1970s. With the fortitude that I had learned from being a top surfer, I pushed my boundaries and became successful in securing commercial recordings of my songs as well as producing the works of others. It was the second ego booster of my life and again, I felt I deserved my success.

Often our most important life’s achievements are found not in the heights of success but rather in the quiet moments that punctuate our lives. In a hiatus from my life as a musician and songwriter, I found my current wife in such a still moment. We have been so very happy together for the last 38 years. We have explored most of the world together and truly have been there for each other in sickness and health. People ask me now, “What is the most successful thing you have ever done?” My answer is always swift: “Marrying Rachel!”

For the last 16 years, Rachel and I have lived in Northern Italy in the tiny village where my father was born some 105 years ago. This life has not been without its problems and disappointments. However, we have been blessed by being immersed in different cultures and languages. It has added a ribbon of richness to our lives and allowed us to travel to most of Europe and meet new friends from around the globe. We now spend our time divided between Italy and the United States but our travel bug has slowly been feeling the effects of the insecticide of age.  Now we are happy just to say we’ve been there and done that.

I have been anticipating this 70 year affair for a while. Just last month I corrected my doctor when he referred to me as 70 years old. “That would be 69 and 11/12ths,” I barked as though somehow it actually made a difference. A larger than normal quantity of geezer jokes have come my way recently as well. It does make one think and so that’s exactly what I did this morning.

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Finally, Rachel was up and in the kitchen and I realized that I would have to get up and begin my day another year older and as a septuagenarian. It’s funny: I didn’t have bitter feelings of being older. Rather I felt rejuvenated in reflecting upon a life well lived and in the knowledge that I have so much more to live for.

70? Who knew? Happy Birthday to me!

Photo: The author 68 years ago somewhere in the snows of Iowa.

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12 Comments
  1. KiM permalink

    That was an interesting peek into your life Allen. Happy 70th to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vsii permalink

    Have a great birthday. Wishing you many more enjoying family, good health and good times with good friends,

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Olive Blankenship permalink

    Happy Birthday Allen! Enjoy your evening.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy birthday, Allen! What an interesting and rewarding life you have led. Kudos for your teaching years – a poorly rewarded career- and your thankless single-parenting days.

    My husband beat you to that milestone by a few months. He didn’t think he’d live this long, either, given his hobby of moto-cross and the attendant broken bones!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Seventy?! Seventy?! Why you don’t look a day over sixty-nine. Happy birthday, you old coot! 🎂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My father is around the same age (a smidgen older). I have heard many of the same things from him about the old days. He also talks about Howdy Doody, Soupy Sails, wiffle ball, and the boy in the box (that’s pretty location specific and not a wonderful moment in the sepia colored landscape, but had a big impact on him). He also talks about how he was terrified his number would be called, all of the places that he travelled before we were born (and we all talk about the places we’ve gone together). The most magical part for me listening is the memories of my grandparents, not as older people, but as younger people in their 30’s, the news caster that went everywhere including dung-huts in Africa and made my dad want to travel, college on World Campus Afloat, his endless slides that he won’t transfer to digital, the fact that he saw Armstrong land on the moon, he heard Nixon say he wasn’t a crook, that he remembers when Malcolm X was killed and Martin Luther King, Jr., that in his life time he went from speaking on a party line to having a smart phone in his pocket, that his TV went from black and white with 3 channels to a high def with 900 channels, that in his life sugary cereal was marketed as health, then unhealthy, then something to give the kids to shut up, he’s admitted he’s lost track of how many times eggs were changed from a wonder food to death on a plate, he remembers when the DJs of his youth got into trouble for payola, when Dick Clark was actually young and not just ageless, when all of my TCM movies were new. I love hearing all of this, and your memories, and especially your description of the world being sepia colored. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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