My father passed away in December of 2011 at age 92 and my mother passed away in June of 2015 at age 97 -- young at heart, too ornery to die.
Originally from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, we moved to Kansas City when I was in 4th grade and moved to Minneapolis after I finished 5th grade. When my father retired sometime in the 1980s, my parents moved to Cherokee Village, Arkansas, where they enjoyed their golden years.
Cherokee Village is a retirement community in north central Arkansas that is primarily occupied by retired Yankees. It was developed back in the 1950’s when it was determined that Yankees had a propensity to drift south after they retired and there was a need to confine them to a single area so they wouldn’t contaminate the local way of life.
In 2001 - 2007, I wrote columns for the Areawide News newspapers in Salem and Cherokee Village, Arkansas, and the South Missourian newspaper.
I wrote the following newspaper column about Cherokee Village in 2002. It was awarded first place by the Arkansas Press Association in 2003, for humor columns written the previous year in medium-sized newspapers (about 40 of them). I was subsequently awarded first place in 2006, 2007, and second place in 2004 in the same humor category, as well as winning awards in other categories.
This was my first newspaper award -- I was very pleased with the honor. But then again, in Arkansas you can also win awards for spitting, both accuracy and distance.
THE SENILE SEVEN
Within Cherokee Village is a select group of old coots who call themselves the Senile Seven.
There are two requirements to be chosen for membership into this private club.
First, you must be senile. In other words, you must exhibit a loss of mental faculty characteristic with old age. If your mind has degenerated to the point where you can’t spell “senile” or know what it means, you’re probably qualified to join the group.
The second requirement is that you must be able to count all the way to seven. That way when one of the members passes away, the others will know that one of them is missing.
Initially, they were only six of them, known as the Senile Six, but one of the members kept getting “six” confused with “sex” -- which was even more confusing for the other members who mostly forgot, or never knew, anything about sex in the first place. So they had to search Cherokee Village for another senile old coot, a fairly simple task, to bring the count up to seven.
Al, Don, Floyd, Harlan, Jack, Jim, and Wes are the current seven members. They only use first names because that’s about all they can remember from day to day about each other.
Wayne and Bill are substitutes. Apparently, they’re not quite senile enough yet to join the club but are well on the way.
The Senile Seven is not to be confused with the Magnificent Seven who were seven fictitious characters in a western movie that were quick on the draw, had good posture and most of their original teeth. The Senile Seven do everything in slow motion, slump a lot and have about a dozen good teeth between them.
Many retired Cherokee Villagers spend their free time involved in community beautification, such as clearing litter off the roadways and planting flowers in cul-de-sac islands. Apparently they don’t want to be reminded that they live in Arkansas. Others stay active by helping the elderly, caring for stray animals, doing various volunteer tasks and becoming involved in local government affairs.
The Senile Seven also does a great deal of good for the community. They play cards. In fact they play cards every day for hours and hours without ever moving, except for an occasional squirm in a chair or a quick run to the restroom.
By remaining indoors at all times, these old codgers are not out in their vehicles terrorizing other drivers trying to remember where they are going and wondering why the clutch pedal is missing.
They’re very considerate when it comes to turn signals though. They’ll put the left turn signal on when they leave the driveway, knowing that somewhere down the line they’re apt to make a left and will have one less thing to worry about.
My father is a member of the Senile Seven. The rest of the family couldn’t be more proud. As I understand it, he’s the only one who always shows up at the card games with matching socks. Naturally, that’s because all 51 of his socks match.
Slightly younger than most of the others, my father didn’t get the opportunity to vote for Chester A. Arthur and wasn’t actually in the Spanish American War. He was born shortly after the end of the war to end all wars, now commonly referred to as World War One.
Somewhere down the line, it was discovered that world wars were good for the economy and quite profitable for certain sectors, so they decided to start numbering them and get another one going.
In high school, my father learned many useful things, such as the dangers of the dangling participle, the inner workings of the steam engine, and that the earth wasn’t really flat after all.
My father has a bit of a problem remembering much of his past. He thinks the Great Depression started the day I was born. I can’t imagine why.
Basically, we never grow old. We mature in one sense and remain childish in another. The past and future dictates our present, and our state of mind manifests our being.
We are what we are because of what we have been and what is yet to come, and what we choose to do about it.
Age only matters if you're a bottle of wine or a block of cheese.
Quote for the Day -- "The hardest years in life are those between 10 and 70." Helen Hayes
Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs, where he writes stuff and talks to trees.