by Larry Teren
Is eighty-one considered old? My neighbor Mark thinks not. His list of activities makes one half his age envious of his continuing accomplishments.
Mark and his wife have a one bedroom apartment on the other side of the elevator from mine in our condominium building. I first meet Mark a couple of years ago getting off the elevator on our floor heading toward his unit. The busybody that I am, I introduce myself. Don’t see him again until several months later. That’s because his unit is merely a home a way from home. Mark most often lives with his wife in a house in a northern suburb about fifteen miles distance. They use this apartment for the times they go downtown into the city for entertainment and don’t feel like traveling the full distance home so late at night.
It occurs to me and I am sure to you, dear reader, that Mark is a man of means who can afford to live an interesting lifestyle. I ask if we can get together the next time he is staying overnight and chat further. Instead, he says that he will be glad to tell me the story of his life over the phone. We exchange numbers and agree on a time.
“You probably think I throw my money around for convenience,” begins Mark. “Not at all. My only extravagances are the three classic cars I own.”
“You have classic cars?”, I jump in.
“Yes,” replies Mark, “but let me tell you how a seemingly old fellow keeps busy. You see, I am a retired lawyer but not really retired. I don’t get paid but I keep busy using my legal knowledge. Just today I went with a few fellow lawyers to a nursing home on the South Side and provided free legal service to the residents. Each of us were given three pre-screened clients to help them prepare wills, assign trustees and funeral plans for when the time will come. As I said, we do it for nothing. It’s our way of paying back and helping those who otherwise cannot afford to hire a lawyer.”
“Wow! That’s very nice”, my standard reply.
Mark: “Wait! Not only that, but I do voluntary work with the Chicago Coalition For Law Related Education. I go to high schools and judge mock trial competitions under the auspices of the Chicago Bar Association. I also am an arbitrator when needed by Circuit Court for claims under seventy five thousand dollars. I do get paid for the arbitration work. And I volunteer out in a South Elgin School District. I help conduct talks with junior high school students about law. So, I still keep busy. Not bad for a guy my age, huh?”
“Well, I presume you practiced law for pay for at least forty years and stashed away the dough, right?”, I asked.
Mark: “Not quite. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, and taught English for seventeen years in a high school. At one point I was the head of the English department. I was married with three young kids and saw that I was not going to get a decent raise in salary unless I got a doctorate. So, I went to night school and chose to get a degree in law. After graduating from law school, my family voted that I should quit teaching and get a job as a lawyer. So, at the age of thirty-seven, I switched careers and was able to get a job working for the Ford Motor Company.”
Me: “How did you end up here in the Chicago area?”
Mark: “It was time for a change of scenery for a couple of reasons and an opportunity to work as in-house counsel for an international manufacturer came about so I jumped on it.”
Me: “Mark, you are a fascinating fellow. You act like a guy at least twenty years younger. I guess the volunteer work is what keeps you going?”
Mark: “Only partially. Truthfully, the passion that keeps me on my toes and always looking forward to the next season is my classic cars. Every year I’m presenting them in shows called Concours d’Elegance. I’ve won several awards which are like loving cups and trophies. After a while, they lose their uniqueness but they are still much appreciated.
And since I’m sure you want to know- I have a 1947 Triumph Roadsters, a 1947 Standard Drophead Coupe and a 1966 Mini Cooper pickup truck. They are British make. Yes, I fell in love with them during the time I spent in England. In order to be permitted to be imported to America, they have to meet certain US standards. The first two have right hand drive but the truck is converted to left hand drive.”
Here’s to you Mark and may we all experience your joy of living and achievements without Father Time looking over our shoulders.