“I Just Turned Seventy Five Today”

January 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

picture by Yann de la Marne

The first time I talked to him at the gym, he would tell me why he was there almost every morning. After he retired from the Army, he didn’t want to end up at neighborhood coffee shops gossiping the entire day away. Instead he found new challenges by testing his physical self to new extents.

Seeing “uncle” three times a week after my nearly two years of hitting the weights at the neighborhood gym almost made me forget that he was probably the oldest person to be working out amongst us. True, weekday mornings at the gym means that the place is occupied mainly by seniors of uncle’s age, but at seventy five, uncle had done multiple marathons, rock climbing, and has the physique of a fighting fit forty year old man.

Most of his peers would have frail physiques or be grossly overweight, but here was a fine example of a lifestyle-conscious man. The gym wasn’t the first time I encountered uncle. Back when I was ten, uncle used to be my neighbour, and the only memory I have left of him back then was me stepping onto the car mats that he laid out to dry while washing his car.

He turned around and saw me hopscotching on the pieces of black rubber, then said, “Boy, do you know uncle washed these mats? Why are you stepping on them?”

His voice comes back to give me the chills whenever I see him around at the gym. I’ve never asked him if he remembered this, but one thing that stuck with me was how his tenacity stuck with him til today.

Today, while we waited for opening hours at the entrance of the gym, he tells me, “I’ve just turned seventy-five today”.

Seeing him around so frequently, I take for granted that he’s just one of the older guys around. Seventy five.

What will I be doing at seventy five?

And then I told him “Congrats uncle! Happy Seventy-Five! I’m amazed, I wonder what I’ll be doing at 75.”

Uncle was my main man when I was planning my trip out to Hanoi. He’d been around the South East Asian region a couple of times, and had solid advice for me about traveling to Sapa, Ha Long Bay, and Hoi An.

“I can finally relax. My children are moving to work in Sydney. Its time for more backpacking for me. Going to sit down at a coffee shop in Hoi An.”

Will this man ever slow down?

At seventy five, uncle had some life lessons for this twenty four year old.

“Contentment and financial freedom.” he said. Be cautious against greed and lust, for they destroy families. Reminds me of a hero that revealed his flaws in a very public way recently…

All reasonable advice nonetheless. After all, financial freedom would be scarcely thinkable without contentment.

I’ll be seeing you in Vietnam, uncle.


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