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Column: Getting old ain’t for sissies
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

His name was George. We called him Uncle George. His wife was Aunt Nora. They were our first neighbors when we lived in Atlanta.

He was a strapping man and worked at a steel mill. One day mama told me that Uncle George had a heart attack. This was in the era when there was limited medication and no open heart surgery.

For the rest of his life, Uncle George was a pitiful, sickly man.

I used to think that he took a lot of medicine. He had a basket full of prescriptions that sat on the kitchen table. He used to take them after he got up from his afternoon nap.

I’m guessing that I am around the age when Uncle George first got sick. I take more medication than I care to. But the doctors tell me that my numbers are well under control with medication.

I had a health scare last fall, but am feeling much better now, thank you. I was hospitalized for 8 days at the time when no visitors were allowed.

I think remembering the post-heart attack version of Uncle George and seeing the death of people my age has been an awakening.

This week, I will mark my 62nd trip around the sun. I remember when people who were

62 were ancient. I used to think they belonged in a museum.

I am the last person left in my family. My mother, father and brother have made that trip through the pearly gates. I miss them.

My nephew, David, is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Bremen. I went to hear him preach. I remember walking up and seeing kids on the playground. I started to look for them on the playground and realized that they are now in middle and high school. 

I have heard him tell stories about my brother, Dixon. It gives me yet another perspective on his life.

I’ve also spent some time with my cousin, Wayne. He is now the patriarch of my mama’s family. He has told me stories about Papa Stone, my granddaddy, and other members of our maternal family.

I have friends and relatives who knew him and were fond of Dad. He has been gone since 1984. He got to hold David in the hospital when he was born. My daddy was a simple and soft-spoken man. He wore a fine-looking suit to the hospital to see the new baby. Sadly, cancer had taken its toll on his body and the suit hung loosely on him. A month later, he died.

My mama died in 1996, and she was always worried that my bodily functions were OK and that I was wearing clean underwear.

The late actress Bette Davis once said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.”  She had that right. Some mornings I get up and feel half my age. Then, I look in the mirror and some old guy is staring back at me.

It reminds me of a German saying: “I may not recognize you, but I will bathe you.”

That’s a loose translation, but you get the idea.

I will soon have more years on the planet than Dad or Uncle George and I hope to

have a few more. My goal is to make it to 103 and be shot in a hotel room by a

26-year-old jealous husband who was justified.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.