1954. My birth year. I share it with Oprah, Sonia Sotomayer and Angela Merkel.
Not counting our grand entrance, 1954 is memorable for many other reasons. The Brown v. Board of Education decision struck down "separate but equal" school segregation. Health officials began vaccinating kids against polio.
You could buy a gallon of gas for 22-cents, a postage stamp for 3-cents (people actually wrote letters then) and a movie ticket for 70-cents.
"Rear Window," one of my favorite movies, was released that year, along with other classics like "White Christmas," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "Dial M for Murder."
If you stayed home to watch your favorite TV shows (in real time, no recordings), chances are you were tuned in to "I Love Lucy," "The Jackie Gleason Show" or "Dragnet."
If music was your passion, songs by Kentucky's Rosemary Clooney, plus Tony Bennett, Doris Day and Eddie Fisher were at the top of the charts.
Favorite toys under the Christmas tree were Matchbox cars, Yahtzee, Lincoln Logs and Scrabble.
In sports, Determine won the Kentucky Derby, the NY Giants captured the World Series and "Sports Illustrated" magazine launched its first edition.
Oddly enough, April 11, 1954, holds the record for being the most boring day ever. Nothing notable happened. I'm glad I missed that uneventful 24-hours since I wasn't born until June.
Now, if you've done the math (simple subtraction), you'll realize this is a big birthday for me next month -- as I turn 65. It's quite a milestone.
I don't take it for granted. I am older than my mother ever was. Having bravely battled cancer three separate times over 25 years, she lost her last fight in 1998 at age 63.
Sixty-five is a lot of years to contemplate. I can recall only parts of that lengthy period in detail. The rest is blurry. It almost seems like several lifetimes smooshed together. But all of these experiences, explorations and evolutions have blended into a better life than I've deserved.
Reflecting on 65 years is like rereading a familiar book. There are diverse characters. Rotating locations. Conflicts. Drama. Laughter. Tears. Mistakes made. Lessons learned. I'm in no hurry to flip to the end of this continuing saga to see how it ends. I'm content to watch it unfold naturally. I hope there are many more riveting chapters ahead.
The opening pages of my life were unremarkable, revolving around a tiny town in rural Iowa where everybody knows your name -- and your business. I was bused to school. Did my chores. Argued with my sisters. Practiced my trumpet. Played softball. Drank rootbeer fizzies. Endured too many home perms.
The next scenes depict my nomadic life -- moving to four different states, attending colleges in Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Kentucky as I tried to "discover" myself, and my place in the world. It took a while. I wore tie-dye T-shirts, bell-bottomed jeans and a bracelet with the name of a U.S. soldier Missing in Action in Vietnam. I studied to be a social worker and special needs teacher before finally finding the best fit: journalism.
By the late 1970s and beyond, I moved into my "professional phase," of life -- reporting stories for radio and cable TV stations in Owensboro, Lexington and Richmond, fortunate to find amazing mentors in my field. I interviewed celebrities like NPR's Bob Edwards, Star Trek's George Takei and astronaut Story Musgrave.
For about 20 years, I followed town hall meetings and Congressional hearings about how to safely dispose of the aging chemical weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot -- a process just now starting in 2019.
But the most memorable stories were of average people doing remarkable things -- like the foster family that cared for medically fragile children, or parents coping with a child's mental illness, sometimes as severe as schizophrenia. There were women who blocked bulldozers to stop mountaintop removal. And women brave enough to leave abusive spouses.
Throughout all this, raising four kids, while juggling a career, has kept me active, engaged and in a constant state of worry and wonder.
Now here's the twist to the story: by happenstance, when I retired from radio, I discovered a new calling -- teaching. Almost a high school dropout, I've been teaching mostly Public Speaking at EKU for 14 years. And loving it. I learn fascinating facts from my students about the subjects they share and the research they do. Teaching also keeps me current with technology since so much material is accessed online. Not bad for an old foggie who learned to type on a Royal manual typewriter.
Eventually, I plan to retire again, but I'm not sure what I'll do with my free time. Those chapters have yet to be written. At the end of my story, I doubt I'll ever be as rich as Oprah. As accomplished as Justice Sotomayer. Or as powerful as Chancellor Merkel.
It won't matter. I've already lived a better life than I've deserved.