Dock alum Jim Bishop ('63) wrote a column called “Bishop’s Mantle” in the Harrisonburg (VA) Daily News-Record for 21 years before "retiring" in 2011. He has now “resurrected” the column, and recently authored this piece on another Dock alum, Ted Swartz ('74).
At 75: Singing upbeat tunes—or the birthday blues?
There's relatively little he'd do differently given the opportunity to relive his life to this point. Still, there are one or two regrets...
Man alive—I just rolled over new numbers on the old vehicle odometer (and had some trouble shifting into overdrive). Just happy to still be driving (under the speed limit in the passing lane with my left turn signal on).
I pull up to the traffic light, contemplate the light traffic flow, turn up my homemade 50’s music CD on the Bose system and sing aloud (like no one’s listening, and they aren’t) with The Tune Weaver’s plaintive ballad, “Happy, happy birthday, baby . . . “
Today, May 22, 2020, I turned 75. How did that happen so quickly (guess dates on calendar are closer than they appear)?
I put my pedal (gently) to the metal of my 2013 Mazda Miata and accelerate, observing with the late Chuck Berry, that there’s “no particular place to go,” except on exciting trips to Wal-Mart, Walgreen Pharmacy and Kline’s Dairy Bar.
As a birthday bonus, I just made my last loan payment to the Credit Union and the Miata is now officially mine; car title in hand, marked “no lien.” I auto feel good, and I do.
Then I think to myself, with the late Louis Armstrong, “What a wonderful world . . .’” even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to turn the world upside down.
Life is good. I make this assertion not only because “this is my Father’s world” despite its many flaws and ills, but because I feel abundantly blessed, far exceeding expectations—“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” (Psalm 16:6).
I start just about every day by singing, usually in the shower or before eating breakfast—cereal, toast, orange juice and coffee—“I owe the Lord a morning song of gratitude and praise, for his kind mercies he has shown in lengthening out my days.”
Then, the whiny voice of Grandpa Mick Jagger invades my reverie with “What a drag it is getting old . . . “
I’ve reflected often of late on growing older and working to accept the physical, emotional and spiritual realities that accompany this simultaneously exhilarating and unnerving roller-coaster life stage.
For most of my life I’ve acknowledged and accepted that I am high-strung, quirky, resistant to change, hopelessly nostalgic, quick to judge and tend to measure my worth by how many things I can accomplish in a day. Nine years into retirement, I try to do the same or even higher levels of activity than I did 20 years ago. I’m trying to slow down, focusing more on people and less on material things (that you can’t take with you).
As the pandemic plods on, I vow to make more attitude adjustments—choosing my battles selectively, listening more (even with hearing loss), learning how to pray more honestly, giving affirmations freely and saying “I love you” often, starting with my amazing supportive companion of 53 years, wife Anna, and fanning out from there.
I’ve stated this before, but were it possible to go back and relive life up to this moment, there’s probably little I’d want to do differently, and I'd undoubtedly make some of the same mistakes again.
Echoing the Chairman of the Board Mr. Sinatra’s reflection, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. . .” However, I will admit mine.
I wish I had applied myself more all through school; I could have achieved more academically and otherwise. That deficiency was partially offset by an active social life and involvement in many satisfying extracurriculars that proved valuable to my eventual career choice.
I started but never finished a master’s degree, but felt like I received the equivalent preparation through the opportunities and challenges of the communication work I pursued, and enjoyed, in the same role for 40 years.
I often felt that I fell short in carrying out my parental duties as a father when our daughters were little. Anna bore more than her share of responsibilities, especially during their teenage years. But, many times since, Jenny and Sara have expressed their boundless love in many tangible ways and I am humbly grateful.
At 75—at any age, really—we don’t know what might happen the next minute, next day, next week. Thus, it behooves us to live each day as if it was our last—a tall but do-able order.
I believe that there’s a bit more life in this old physical vehicle of mine. It’s been a great ride so far, despite some wrong turns and setbacks en route, but my desire is to “get out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure” a few more times before my warranty expires.
I’ve come this far by faith, and faith will lead me home. So again, I sing, “Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me on, let me stand . . ."
— Jim Bishop
Jim Bishop is a 1963 graduate of Christopher Dock, and a 1967 grad of Eastern Mennonite University. After four years as a writer-editor for the former Mennonite Board of Missions, he returned to his college alma mater served 40 years as EMU's public information officer. He retired in June, 2011. Jim also wrote a weekly column, “Bishop’s Mantle,” for the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record from February 1990, until July 2011. He continues his freelance photography and writing interests in retirement. He and his wife, Anna, have two adult daughters and five grandchildren. They are members of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg.