Last night, at about 9:30, I left the house to run. I had half a plan. Sunday and Monday are very quiet nights in downtown Huntsville, so I planned to run around Big Springs Park.
Big Spring was once the reservoir for what was soon to become a thriving cotton and timber-based industry city. Big Spring is now a well used, beautifully maintained park, that occupies more than four square blocks of downtown Huntsville.
By day it belongs to a multitude of visitors that range from young couples with children who are there to feed the ducks and geese, to older couples who are killing time after visiting the Huntsville Art Museum, or middle-agers waiting for show time at the Von Braun Convention Center.
By night, Big Spring Park belongs to a few homeless people, smitten lovers, and me. As I approached the back entrance near the main source of the spring, I saw a tall man walking casually toward his car. I was over a block away, so I couldn't be sure, but he moved like a young man, maybe a dancer, or someone whose activities required grace and coordination.
He slid into his car, parked next to the entrance of the park, and I realized only the second half of my appraisal was correct. He was tall and graceful, but beyond the way he moved and the sparkle in his eyes, he wasn't young. He had almost as much gray in his hair as I have in mine, and only my psyche remains young.
Our eyes met, we grinned, and nodded, then he said something I couldn't hear. I stopped, popped the ear-bud out of my right ear and said, "Sorry, with my music cranked up I couldn't hear you."
"I'm just curious," he said. "How young are you."
"Seventy," I said. Before he could respond, I added, "I should note that in a couple of hours I'll be seventy-one."
"Well, you're looking good he said." And I knew he meant it.
"Thanks, you too."
He waved, cranked his car, and I jump-stepped back into my jog. A few minutes later, as I crossed the raised bridge and looked down at the large group of koi lazily holding their usual position on the north side of the bridge, I repeated his question - How young are you - and considered it as I ran.
Physically, there is a definite difference between twenty-one and seventy-one. The funny part of that is, at twenty-one, I could not have run the six and half mile loop I knocked out last night. However, to be perfectly honest, had I been a runner then, I would have been much faster than I am now, fifty years later.
As I turned toward home, I got the answer to the stranger's question– I'm as young today as I've ever been, and its way too late for that to change.
So, how young are you?