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Archived Story

What will be, will be

Published 9:37pm Wednesday, July 24, 2013

By Frank Roberts

I am a senior citizen — at 84, a VERY senior citizen — and I have come to ask that that y’all KNOCK IT OFF.

Someone recently let me know that being a senior citizen “is better than the alternative.” That bit of broken-record philosophy worn thin. It is on a par with the advice to take one day at a time.

If you are in my age group, you know full well that some days are worse than others. You tell folks something like “yesterday was better than today” or vice versa, and then you go into a discussion of your problems.

Eventually, you will either float to heaven or push the down button on the devil’s elevator. The latter might offer the opportunity to meet up with your former spouses, and/or those who bled your earth-bound self financially dry.

A major reason for staying earthbound is family, unless yours is dysfunctional. Fortunately, mine is mostly functional, with kids and grandkids persistently grabbing my elbow to help me walk and keep me upright.

I need all the help I can get, since — to use a non-technical phrase — my dopey bones are deteriorating. To quote a line from the song “Old Man River,” “my bones all aching and wracked with pain.” Amen and amen!

Like the mighty Mississippi River, I just keep rolling along — literally rolling with the help of my walker wheels. I have no control over the wheels on my Prius. The medics and the state of North Carolina jointly checked my joints and axed my driving privileges.

Trips to the Arkansas branch of my family are out, since my wife has to confine her driving to local areas. Trips to see my specialist in Greenville are chauffered by one of the kids.

My doc, by the way, once told me he, too, hopes to live to be 84, adding, “But I hope I’m in better shape.”

My two great-granddaughters keep me smiling, but that’s another thing about being a senior citizen: Even as I get so close to them, I know I probably won’t see Madison graduate from grammar school or Trinity enter grammar school.

I have had a happy, happy life. Growing up, I had good friends and a great time in high school (a graduating class of 12 girls and four boys). Army life was a hoot, spending two years in Nome, living off base, wearing civvies, and working as an Armed Forces Radio Service deejay on WXLN, the Voice of the Arctic.

I was only 17 when I arrived there and very soon was unofficially ‘adopted’ by the Hay family. I discovered the beautiful brown-eyed Betty Blakely. I would have married her, but my mommy wrote to my commanding officer, and put the kibosh on those lovely hand-in-hand walks by the Bering Sea.

My professional life was also radio, plus television, both in North Carolina and Iowa. Then, two years with the Jacksonville, N.C., Daily News, followed by 30 with the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, reviewing mostly country concerts, and happily covering Suffolk.

Life was good — three kids, five grandkids, and those two great-greats. Longevity runs in my family, and I hope I can go into the 90s — at least.

I have good friends and enjoy being with them, but I don’t enjoy the fact that I lose so many of them. I go to funerals every couple of months. As I sit in the funeral homes, I wonder what will be said about me — maybe something like “What a shmoo.”

Another thing I miss is acting. I am an admitted Smithfield (ham, that is) and have performed in theaters across the country. Favorite roles? The mean millionaire in “L’il Abner,” the Peter Lorre role in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which I did twice, and the slob in “The Odd Couple,” which our theater group did in the old King’s Fork Elementary School.

Today, I’m lucky if I can remember my middle name. (It starts with an “M,” I believe). I also used to review plays and judge talent contests, both of which I enjoyed.

I loved announcing the Suffolk Christmas parades and portraying Amedeo Obici.

As I write this, I am listening to Duke Ellington — my music and, oh, how I miss the swing music of my growin’-up years.

I lived five subway stations from Times Square, where I saw all the big bands and, in ‘39 and ‘40, in the other direction, I was four stations away from THE Worlds Fair.

The world is not fair. We age, and we do it so frighteningly swiftly. We can’t fight it.

I will do the best I can, but please don’t tell me that it’s “better than the alternative,” and you can skip the one about taking a day at a time.

I go by the Doris Day philosophy: “Que sera sera (What will be, will be).”

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at froberts73@embarqmail.com.

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