Magic elixir of life


I really never gave it much thought: Growing old, that is. Figured I didn’t have to. The way I saw it, I only had two options: Grow older or die.

If I died – well, I wouldn’t be worrying about getting older, now would I? And the longer I lived, the more obvious it became that I would eventually become old.

Since I didn’t die – a fact The Wife is very happy about – I’m faced with a conundrum: Why then are some people happy no matter how old they get and others are just downright miserable? What magic makes people happy and keeps them vibrant?

Big Brother James has a beautiful wife and three cute blonde daughters – ages 4, 6, and 19. There is an energy surrounding him, one that flows through his life and their new house. When he plays with the girls, he acts like a young man of 20 instead of one quickly approaching 53. It seems to me

Big Brother James found that elusive magic which will keep him vibrant for a long time to come.
So what will be my magic elixir?

The Wife and I took a walk in park the other day. The nature path we chose encircled a small fishing lake. No one was fishing, but three Labrador retrievers were swimming out to fetch sticks thrown into the water by two little boys.

The path took us past barbecue pits, gazebos, and tables full of picnickers. Our path snaked down a steep hill before finally flattening out at the bottom and turning into a sandy trail. There, under a canopy of green pines, it lazily followed the shoals of a gurgling creek.

On one large flat rock next to the water’s edge sat a young couple on a red and brown blanket. An empty picnic basket lay on its side next to them.

Whispering something in her ear, the young man stood, pulling her up close. As he did, she blushed and tucked her chin. She tilted her head to one side and looked up at him coyly out of the corner of her eye. They kissed.

We were oblivious to the young lovers as we passed by. The one-mile path we had taken through the woods somehow ended up being two. But to us, it didn’t matter. Time seemed to stand still. As we walked, the rays of the afternoon sun filtered through the trees, and the light breeze brought the fresh pine scent to our noses.

In what seemed like only moments, an hour had passed, and just as quickly two. Much to our surprise, the path had doubled back upon itself. When we neared the large rock again, the young romantic couple had gone, possibly to find a more secluded place in the forest.

Carefully, we climbed out onto the rock and sat down, listening to the water as it gurgled by just for us. For the longest time, we watched the two boys playing with their Labradors in the shoals just upstream.

When the sun started to dip below the horizon, we knew it was time to go. Like the young couple before, I turned to The Wife, pulled her up close and gave her a lingering kiss.

Following the path back to our car, I realized I did indeed have my answer. I drank the magic elixir. Why are some people so happy and vibrant when they get older?

Love. That’s the magic elixir of life and what keeps us all young.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is]