A Three-Score-and-Ten Celebration!

 

70th Birthday Rib-Fest with Dad!
I went home to Vandalia the day before my 70th birthday. It had been more than a year since I had last been with my Dad. While we were faithfully keeping up with each other during our weekly Sunday evening phone calls, there is nothing to be compared with "laying eyes on a loved one" in person! 

During the days of the 2020 Pandemic, we had been trying to stay in our place to model for our loved ones and to some extent, protect them as we all were managing very different responses. Now that I have received two doses of vaccine, I am feeling a lot more comfortable in reconnecting with my extended family near and far. 

Dad and I went over to Effingham to eat baby-back ribs at Fridays. We have been doing this for years during our mutual birthdays and have logged several special memories from these experiences. Based upon those previous years, we were fixated on one particular entrée, the dry and perfectly crusted, delectable fall-off-of-the-bone juicy ribs with the sauce to the side, fries and coleslaw! All we needed was a fork and some wet wipes to "hose down" after the feast! We're convinced that there is nothing like a genuine guy rib-fest at birthday time!! 😁

After the mid-day meal, we took a leisurely drive through the country by way of the back roads. This was by intention, a "trip down memory lane!" I am blessed that Dad (at 91 years young!) is still an excellent repository for many of my youth experiences! It is well storied that I worked part time for an auto parts store. I travelled these same roads delivering parts to open-country garages and repair shops when I was a senior in high school. It was fun and a learning experience at the same time. Some of these mechanics were conservative old Germans (like my family!) who kept their money in cigar boxes in old refrigerators and always turned their backs to me when getting in their wallets! 

I especially loved pulling up to those settings where there would be a small general store attached to the garage. Barker's, north of Brownstown, was such a place. Upon entering the store, I could always count on finding a cold Dr. Pepper soda being iced down in an old time open cooler. I could "kill" some serious time in such a place listening to stories being told in "colorful" language (yes, cussing included!) while sipping away from my bottle of Dr. Pepper on a hot central Illinois summer day! A memory building experience for sure!

While taking the long way back home, Dad and I drove by the Forbis Cemetery and my eye immediately caught a familiar family name on a monument. Pulling over, we got out and noted that some dear friends were buried there. Back in the day, Dad and Mom would spend Saturday nights playing cards at the home of Joe and Doris Goodson. They had three kids and our family at the time had three as well. 

Dad and I stood at the gravesite thinking about experiences with the Goodson's as the wind of an early April day was briskly blowing and the sun was shining so brightly that I was glad for my cap and shades! I shared with Dad a particular memory that somewhat reminded me of Easter. 

During the late hours of the evening at the Goodson's and after they had cleared the cards from the kitchen table, and also after all six of us kids had already fallen asleep in the living room, Dad would carry my siblings and me to the car and drive us home to where Mom and he would tuck us into bed. Of course, I never remembered any of this due to the innocence of childhood trust and confidence in my parents' provision and protection. I would ask the next morning how I got in my bed and was told the same story again and again. All of this reminds me how one day, my eyes will fall asleep in death to this life only to awaken to that greater reality of being carried in the arms of God to my heavenly home. And all of this because of my faith and trust in a God who delivers on His promises to His children "to prepare a place for me!" (John 14:1-3).

There is a reference in the Bible to age that has had me thinking these past few days! It is a verse in the book of Psalms about the fleetingness or brevity of a man's life in light of eternity that says, "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty..." (Ps. 90:10a, ESV). 

I have said since my sixtieth birthday, that I felt like I had entered the final quarter. I was using a football metaphor and could actually amend this to say, "I may more accurately be within the red zone!" I am not trying to be morbid, but realistic! We are not promised anything more than the day we awakened to this morning. That's why the Psalmist prayerfully appeals, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (Ps. 90:12).

I'm not sure how I will answer the question in these days, "Well, how does it feel to be 'three-score-and-ten'?" I think I can say, "I don't feel that old!" But I must admit that when I look in the mirror each day I do see an older guy! One thing I can affirm is this, for as long as God continues to wake me up to a new day, I will say, "This is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it!" (Ps. 118:24).

Mike Keppler, retired pastor, 
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com 


Comments

  1. Thanks Mike for the memories you have had with your family. God Bless You. young man!. May you have a lot more years. We have a TGI Fridays gift card with some money still on it (I do not remember how much was left) that we did not use before covid hit. You are more then welcome to it. Just let us know where to send it. Hugs Jim and Illa.

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    1. Thanks, good friends! You are too generous! I miss our own Fridays with it being closed now!! Good French onion soup!!

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  2. I enjoyed the simple recollections of going home - both to a physical place where you once lived and that "sacred next" of what is yet to come, what awaits us who live in faith. The Benedictines (religious community of men and women who look to the discipleship of Saint Benedict from the 6th century of Christianity) have a practice of remembering their death at least once a day. It fits what you shared about the psalmist who bid us to number our days aright. May we live well this day under the sun and savor what it brings. The sacred next will come soon enough.

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    1. Thanks, Dan for your eloquent writing! The images of the "sacred next" of eternity and "savoring" this moment today bless me!!

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