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Lloyd Waters: Growing older reminds me of my trip

July 28, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional” is the advice I heard someone once say.

As I look around me, it seems like everyone is growing a bit older, even me. Last week, I had another birthday — the conclusion of my 365-day orbit around the sun.

Feels like warp speed! 

Shucks, I still remember the days of swimming in the pond next to the old John Brown house.

When I look back at all the bends on life’s path, I tend to remember some people who were there to influence me during those 65 years.

I paused to think about my dad and the hard worker he was. He got up before dawn to head around the knob on the tractor, with trailer and chain saws, to cut down trees and haul them back to the sawmill where we cut lumber to sell.

I was amazed as a kid to see how tough my dad was in all the things he did.  Everyone called him “Bull Neck.”

He worked as a carpenter all his life and even died on the job doing what he liked best. His example of hard work played a very important role in my development.  Still does.

I will always be “thankful” for that example.

Walking up the road from the house surrounded by mahogany trees to that little two-room schoolhouse in Dargan gave me another opportunity.

Although I might have been a “little” bad back in the day, I will never forget Ralph Shipley, the principal of Dargan School. He took an interest in all kids, but for some reason a special interest in me.

Principal Shipley asked me to help him with his school safety program. He gave me one of those white school safety belts to strap over my shoulder with a shiny silver badge pinned to it in the middle of my chest.

I was most proud of that badge and being responsible for the safety of my peers at the schoolhouse. The love of that badge has kept me employed for the last 44 years.

It all began because Ralph Shipley took an interest in some poor kid from Dargan.

For some odd reason, in my early years, I made my way up that dirt lane bordered by wild honeysuckles to live with my grandparents.

My grandpa Reno Hetzel (“O”), for sure, had an impact on my life. He died when I was only 11, but I remember sitting on the porch with him in the midst of a thunderstorm snacking on some orange-pineapple ice cream.

We did that often, and it is probably the reason today I so enjoy thunderstorms and the rain.

Listening and feeling the raindrops still represents some of my most favorite moments of life. I still like to stop at the edge of Hagerstown to get an orange-pineapple ice cream cone. And when I do, I think of my grandpa.

My grandmother Gen, who had some difficult times after “O” died, came to be another special person of my youth. I accompanied Gen to visit the neighbors who were sick, to deliver pies, and I helped with their chores. She provided a very positive role model to me as a kid that was reinforced by others along the way.

Gen always had a fondness for people, and entertained them with a cup of coffee, some conversation, or a listening ear when they needed one. Those teachings have served me well on this journey.

There are countless others who have touched me in some positive way, and as I grow a bit wiser and older, I am always thankful for their presence in my life. They surely have made a difference to me.

On your birthday, I hope you take a moment to remember those who helped you along the way.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.



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