So in the late summer of 2006, I realized I could re-enlist if I acted quickly. But I didn't. I did make a major change in my life though. All summer in addition to thinking about being a grunt again, I was listening to my teammates and competitors in Masters bicycle racing. For all of my adult life I have heard men bitch about their wives. The more competitive the guys, the more they thought the world revolved around them and the more they were likely to bitch. So bike racers and Teamsters complain more than graphic artists and copywriters, for example. (I worked on a Teamsters loading dock for four years during college.)
But in 2006, the guys my age were spreading out their complaints across three generations. These guys mostly have good jobs, adult children and at least one living parent. The new complaints: "My son with a degree in Art History is living at home and working at McDonald's." "My mother just broker her hip and wants to come and live with us. She hates my wife and bitches about everything." And a hundred variations on the theme.
I was not worried about my kids, but I realized I was right on track to be one of those 80-year-old ogres those guys were complaining about. Because an "independent" 80-year-old is a joke. Most 80-year-olds are experiencing the failure of many body parts, they need lots of medicine, etc. I know that I am going to be a dependent person when I am 80, maybe way sooner. So I decided I would start thinking that way now. Habits are so hard to make and break and I knew I better start now if I was not going to be that old codger who won't give up his car keys. And bicycle racing is a sport that seems to be OK for older people, but really falls don't get easier with age. I decided to start walking with my family.
Walking lasts as long as I have legs. and it gave me a chance to talk more with my family on the walks. So I cut down my riding and walked more. I also started to work out in the gym--again with my wife and kids. I was working toward some vague time 20 to 30 years away when I would lose my independence to injury and disease and trying to remake myself into someone who would not be a demanding SOB to take care of.
I didn't know at the time I would get a chance to check out my progress in less than a year.